Salt Spring is a unique and special place, and that the character of the island is what draws many people here to live, work or play. It is important to preserve and protect it. Our blend of rugged mountains and pastoral farmlands is framed by the kilometres of waterfront and beach areas that define the island.
We all take pride in our focus on supporting local farmers, businesses, our farm stands, our market and having no national big brand stores. Remember the few that came and went due to lack of customer support? These values are embraced by all of us who live here.
Salt Spring was settled by immigrants from many lands, some who came here to avoid persecution, others who adopted our island after leaving their island homes further away. African American settlers, farmers and fishers from the Hawaiian Islands as well as European visitors all learned to live together with the people of the Salish Sea - the original inhabitants of indigenous settlements and fishing camps. Today, we see a blend of cultures and lifestyles that make us the envy of the rest of the country. Nowhere else in Canada do you find such an eclectic history and one tied so strongly to immigration and adaptation.
That is why we believe that the time is right for Salt Spring to change from an island governed by administrators in Victoria to one governed here at home, by islanders.
Some are afraid our island character is at risk with local decision making. Some say a ‘yes’ vote will create an “urban style” municipality. However, it is inaccurate to suggest that municipal government is only suited to urban communities. More than two-thirds of BC’s 162 municipalities
have fewer people than Salt Spring and they range in size from villages of fewer than 250 persons to full sized cities. Across Canada there are literally hundreds of rural municipalities.
Salt Spring would be uniquely governed as an Island Municipality - as provided for by the Islands Trust Act.
There is nothing in the Act or in Islands Trust policy to say that municipal government doesn’t make sense for communities like ours. There is also nothing in the incorporation study to suggest any change to our current rural culture. Bowen Island has been an island municipality within the Trust since 1999. Salt Spring will not be the first to travel this route.
Improvement districts, like the fire district and four water districts, would dissolve within 5 years, shifting existing service responsibility and reporting to the municipality. Similarly, responsibility for roads, subdivision approvals, land use planning and services now provided through the CRD would shift to the municipality, which would have authority to contract with the CRD as needed for provision of services like bus, library and swimming pool.
There is nothing “urban” implied by adopting local government in a rural setting.
Self management is crucial to be able to form cohesive planning for the future. This is why we believe that the time is right for Salt Spring to change from an island governed by administrators in Victoria to one governed here at home, by islanders.