It’s sometimes hard for Gulf Islanders to feel they are part of a bigger picture.
Time and time again, the Capital Regional District has left Salt Spring and the Southern Gulf Islands off its planning map, and our electoral area directors have had to fight to be included. When they’ve succeeded — and to the credit of current directors Wayne McIntyre and Dave Howe, their dogged persistence usually wins out in the end — our needs are captured in a separate package. It’s as if the archipelago’s geography has manifested as a CRD addendum, an actual trail of dots fading out eastward the further away one gets from the board table in Victoria.
Past examples of the phenomenon had Salt Spring create its own Pedestrian and Cycling Masterplan after being left out of the CRD’s 2011 planning document. The plan identified “a series of infrastructure investments and supportive programming to aid in achieving a regional mode share of 15 per cent each for pedestrians and cyclists” by 2038 — but only for Vancouver Island-based communities.
More recently the CRD has started public engagement on a Gulf Islands Regional Trail Plan, but only after McIntyre and Howe protested their districts’ exclusion from the Regional Trails Management Plan.
Likewise, the 2016 CRD Regional Growth Strategy contains goals to ensure residents “enjoy a healthy and rewarding quality of life” with a vital economy, livable communities and careful stewardship of the environment and natural resources. All worthy objectives, but not, somehow, applicable to the areas under Islands Trust jurisdiction. This leaves the Gulf Islands communities short, since tools such as acquiring green space, building regional trails and planning affordable housing developments are not ones that local Trust committees can wield.
Howe’s motion to have the CRD investigate a possible partnership role to protect Owl Island, a privately owned “ecological jewel” in his district, has double significance. By his calculations, protecting sensitive ecosystems and working with First Nations fits perfectly into the CRD’s corporate plan. But he’s partly motivated by the hope the request will cause municipal directors to look up from the board table and cast their gaze out across the water, to finally see how the islands are part of the regional landscape.
Island taxpayers contribute to the regional budget. It’s time we were recognized as full-fledged members of the district.