Right now the Islands Trust is considering removing its responsibility to protect our “unique island culture and community” from its mandate, as expressed in the new Policy Statement, in order to solely focus on the environment.
During the global disaster we’re living through right now, the value of our community in the Gulf Islands has never been more clear. From schools to grocery stores, our hard working hospital staff to the wide network of alternative healers, those serving take-out or making beauty with their art and crafts, or friends from of all backgrounds and walks of life. The diversity of our community is not only part of what makes life here special, it’s what makes it safe.
So while we seem to be surviving the pandemic pretty well, because of the other major crisis predating the pandemic – housing – this foundation of our community is quickly being eroded.
Hundreds of healthcare workers, educators, front line grocery store heroes, workers who staff our restaurants, grow food, care for our elderly and sick, or make the art we all love were being forced off the islands due to the high cost or just complete lack of safe available housing. These trends are only getting worse since the pandemic, as reported in the Globe and Mail last weekend, home prices are rising as much as 30% in rural communities like ours outside major cities.
Did you know the average house price on Salt Spring two years ago was $835,000? To afford that kind of mortgage, a family needs to make $135,000 a year. But with our median household income being only $57,000…do the math. It’s a pretty big gap, and it’s only getting bigger.
Look ahead a few years or decades to see where this road takes us, without a bend in the curve. It’s not good.
So it’s a shock to hear that, instead of working hard to creatively solve these problems, the Islands Trust is actively discussing whether or not it’s better to walk away from their responsibility for community and the environment altogether.
This is not fake news. There is a group of Trustees – not from Salt Spring – making the case that the Trust’s mandate should be focussed only on the environment. They want to remove from the Policy Statement up for discussion right now the original dual purpose of also protecting our unique island community and culture.
The issue is being discussed and debated at an upcoming Trust meeting and online town hall on March 3.
This is profoundly misguided. The climate emergency is stretching all of us, but looking at climate solutions solely through an ecological lens and ignoring people is the exact opposite of a compassionate approach. Building walls – or moats – is not acceptable.
Climate solutions must include people, particularly those most at risk and impacted by our current broken systems. That’s climate justice. With smart planning and incentives from the Trust and others, this can be done with less impact on our environment than the current mansion-driven rural sprawl our system is encouraging today.
Tell the Islands Trustees they can’t abdicate their role in protecting our unique Gulf Islands culture and community. You can register to attend the March 3 town hall here or send a letter to all Trustees here.