Wednesday, May 22, 2024
May 22, 2024

Support for tourism economy questioned

The following letter written by Franz Scherubl of Seclusion Lane on Salt Spring Island was sent to Saanich North and the Islands MLA Adam Olsen and filed with the Driftwood for publication.

Dear Mr. Olsen,

I was both startled and perplexed when I read your “Business challenges faced” Viewpoint piece in the March 1 edition of the Gulf Islands Driftwood.

Though I am glad that you are meeting with and listening to representatives of the business community, I am startled that you seem to be so quick to abandon the core principles on which, as a prominent member of the Green party, you were elected.

All levels of government have agreed that we are in a climate EMERGENCY, and that the entire planet is doomed unless we use all available means to immediately slow global warming.

Most disturbing to me is your commitment to “supporting the tourism economy with safer transportation routes and visitor friendly infrastructure.” The tourism economy, especially on an Island — whether Vancouver Island or the Gulf Islands — is almost entirely fossil fuel powered. Tourists arrive and depart on fossil fuel consuming ferries, almost entirely in fossil fuel consuming vehicles, and they drive (and pollute) extensively when on the island. Or they come on fossil fuel powered airplanes or fossil fuel powered cruise ships and rent fossil fuel powered vehicles once they get here.

Fossil fuel production is driven by demand. There is no point in protesting against oil wells and pipelines while simultaneously encouraging people to consume fossil fuels by enabling them to travel purely for pleasure. And when they arrive they consume a considerable amount of the housing stock which, as you admit in your piece, has resulted in “many rental units being turned into short-term vacation rentals.”

Do you support reducing consumption of fossil fuels and an increase in long-term housing rental stock, or do you support tourism which diminishes long-term housing stock and increases fossil fuel consumption?

On Salt Spring Island we have an acute shortage of workers due in large part to insufficient housing and this is forcing many people to commute via ferry daily to provide the services we require. The observation that tourism is in part consuming long-term housing stock compounds the problem.

There are already more than 350 ferry sailings each week serving Salt Spring Island in the off-peak seasons. In the summer that number goes to over 375 — an additional 25 sailings a week driven almost entirely by tourism. What is the ecological footprint of that? Eliminate, or at least reduce, tourism and overall demand drops dramatically, especially in the summer.

More sailings means more greenhouse gas emissions and building bigger ferries has a huge ecological footprint: many tons of materials need to be mined, transported, manufactured and remanufactured, transported numerous times through every step of the process, assembled, transported again, and on it goes. Surely you are not blind to the enormous environmental damage which results.

Salt Spring Island is already underserved by workers to support residents. We do not need to create jobs related to the tourist industry. They compete with jobs sorely needed for supporting the full-time population and they put even more stress on the ferry system to transport many of them on and off the island on a daily basis.

I remind you that the Salt Spring Island Foundation has calculated that a livable wage for workers living on Salt Spring was $24.36 per hour last year and inflation continues to put upward pressure on that number. Many (most?) of our workers earn less, and those who need to reside off-island, in addition to contributing to fossil fuel consumption, face even higher costs.

Many parts of the world have already reacted to the cultural and environmental damage caused by tourism and are vigorously acting to reduce visitors. Why will you not do the same here to protect our sensitive ecosystems and support policies which serve to preserve and protect our islands as well as the planet as a whole?

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