When it comes to contemplating an incorporation referendum for Salt Spring Island, the pressure is off for awhile.
The Ministry of Community, Sport and Cultural Development has advised that the vote cannot cross paths with the provincial election in May, so it will not take place until late August at the earliest.
Public awareness and discussion of the issue had some momentum following release of the Salt Spring Island Incorporation Study Committee Final Report in October and subsequent meetings, so an earlier vote would have taken advantage of that. However, the postponement may be fortuitous for a specific reason. The vitriolic state of public/political discourse in the U.S. has repulsed most citizens, so a desire to dissect local incorporation issues in as civil a manner as possible appears to be high. A new resource in the form of James Hoggan’s book called I’m Right and You’re an Idiot: The Toxic State of Public Discourse and How to Clean it Up is suddenly on the scene, clearly outlining both the problems and potential solutions.
“The goal of public discourse should be to encourage participation and expose the truth, not to discourage opposition and crush those who disagree,” states Hoggan, who is now a Salt Spring resident.
We couldn’t agree more. But as Hoggan describes, it will take some serious work on the part of many individuals to turn the current toxic ship around.
Perhaps Salt Spring Islanders should take a page from Mayne Island, which initiated the mass Gulf Islands reading and discussion of the Inconvenient Indian by Thomas King in 2015 so they could educate themselves about colonization issues. Salt Spring Islanders could spark a similar challenge and read Hoggan’s book en masse, discuss it in small groups and see if a healthier form of discourse could be implemented here. It could have a focus on the incorporation issue, or not.
Unfiltered online forums will continue to encourage dialogue that may not always be accurate, helpful or build community — although all forums can have value — but Hoggan’s research and writing show there is a better way for people to share, disagree and solve problems. That’s a path we’d like to see explored and endorsed.