Chickens In A Coal Mine?


Let’s fast forward say 3 months and the Covid19 crisis is hopefully over.

And hopefully, the number of people who died from this particular virus wasn’t more than the annual grim reaper’s influenza toll of about 10,000 Canadians.

The economic damage was severe, with losses in the billions, and many devastated…in some cases life savings wiped out.

We survived, learned, and hopefully are better prepared for next year.

Yes, next year…or the year after…

And this is where the discussion gets a bit messy.

Prior to Covid19, for centuries, we watched the reaper reap his annual toll, noting that, just like back in jungle, those with the strongest immune systems survive. Nature takes us all back in time…its just a matter of how and how soon.

We dodge bullets from the moment of conception until the moment we fail to dodge the last, fatal, shot.

That’s life, and, if we are realists, we accept that death is just the period at the end of life’s sentence.

How long that sentence is, is largely our doing.

Heart disease and cancer take about 75% of us. Shouldn’t have had that last fatty hamburger has likely been the last regretful thought of many – ”Damn….arterial plaque IS a thing…”

Some of us are blessed with great immune systems and some of us are cursed with crappy immune systems.

But, most of us, on a daily basis, neglect our immune systems.

I like to tell people the story of chicken farmers, selenium, mortality and money.

Commercial chicken farmers supplement a chicken’s food with selenium, because selenium is an essential element in the functioning of a chicken’s immune system against…wait for it…viruses.

Infection of poultry with HPAI viruses can cause severe disease with high mortality. … HPAI virus infection in poultry (such as with HPAI H5 or HPAI H7 viruses) can cause disease that affects multiple internal organs with mortality up to 90% to 100%, often within 48 hours. ( )

90-100% mortality…I’m just going to say that’s a pretty high rate wouldn’t you say?

And what does science tell us about selenium and viruses?

Selenium deficiency leads to increased host-susceptibility to viruses in most cases. High Selenium levels may be beneficial to us, particularly for HIV-1, which itself appears to negatively affect our Selenium status.

(I’ve added a list of references below which anyone can peruse to their heart’s content.)

So, back to the chicken farmer and money. Like any commodity, the cost of selenium fluctuates, and, given farmers are frugal when it comes to reducing costs of farming, the farmer wants to know just how much bang for the buck he can get from the essential mineral.

In order to calculate that, he uses a software program, into which he inputs the cost of selenium. With a push of a button the software compares the cost of selenium to the mortality rate of chickens, and determines how much selenium should be added in order to balance the cost of selenium with the mortality rate. If selenium prices are high, then selenium will be reduced in the food supply just enough to keep the survival rate of production above the loss of excess mortality.

So, I’ll leave you with this question – Do you supplement your diet with selenium:

(a) at all,

(b) like a chicken farmer on a budget, or,

(c) at the scientifically recommended daily dose of 200 mcg for immune system support against viruses?

That would be an interesting question to also ask every Covid19 patient,  and compare the mortality rate of those patients to see if we can learn anything from what could very likely be “chickens in a coal mine.”


Reference from

  1. Beck MA, Kolbeck PC, Rohr LH, Shi Q, et al. Benign human enterovirus becomes virulent in selenium-deficient mice. J Med Virol. 1994;43:166–170. [PubMed] [Google Scholar]
  2. Nelson H, Shi KQ, Van Dael P, Schiffrin EJ, et al. Host nutritional selenium status as a driving force for influ-enza virus mutations. FASEB J. 2001;15:1846–1848. [PubMed] [Google Scholar]
  3. Beck MA, Nelson HK, Shi Q, Van Dael P, et al. Selenium deficiency increases the pathology of an influenza virus infection. FASEB J. 2001;15:1481–1483. [PubMed] [Google Scholar]
  4. Li W, Beck MA. Selenium deficiency induced an altered immune response and increased survival following influenza A/Puerto Rico/8/34 infection. Exp Biol Med (Maywood) 2007;232:412–419. [PubMed] [Google Scholar]
  5. Sheridan PA, Zhong N, Carlson BA, Perella CM, et al. Decreased selenoprotein expression alters the immune response during influenza virus infection in mice. J Nutr. 2007;137:1466–1471. [PubMed] [Google Scholar]
  6. Moustafa ME, Carlson BA, El-Saadani MA, Kryukov GV, et al. Selective inhibition of selenocysteine tRNA maturation and selenoprotein synthesis in transgenic mice expressing isopentenyladenosine-deficient selenocysteine tRNA. Mol Cell Biol. 2001;21:3840–3852. [PMC free article] [PubMed] [Google Scholar]
  7. Jaspers I, Zhang W, Brighton LE, Carson JL, et al. Selenium deficiency alters epithelial cell morphology and responses to influenza. Free Radic Biol Med. 2007;42:1826–1837. [PMC free article] [PubMed] [Google Scholar]
  8. Look MP, Rockstroh JK, Rao GS, Kreuzer KA, et al. Serum selenium versus lymphocyte subsets and markers of disease progression and inflammatory response in human immunodeficiency virus-1 infection. Biol Trace Elem Res. 1997;56:31–41. [PubMed] [Google Scholar]
  9. Baum MK, Shor-Posner G, Lai S, Zhang G, et al. High risk of HIV-related mortality is associated with selenium deficiency. J Acquir Immune Defic Syndr Hum Retrovirol. 1997;15:370–374. [PubMed] [Google Scholar]
  10. Kupka R, Msamanga GI, Spiegelman D, Morris S, et al. Selenium status is associated with accelerated HIV disease progression among HIV-1-infected pregnant women in Tanzania. J Nutr. 2004;134:2556–2560. [PubMed] [Google Scholar]
  11. Stephensen CB, Marquis GS, Douglas SD, Kruzich LA, Wilson CM. Glutathione, glutathione peroxidase, and selenium status in HIV-positive and HIV-negative adolescents and young adults. Am J Clin Nutr. 2007;85:173–181. [PubMed] [Google Scholar]
  12. Shor-Posner G, Miguez MJ, Pineda LM, Rodriguez A, et al. Impact of selenium status on the pathogenesis of myco-bacterial disease in HIV-1-infected drug users during the era of highly active antiretroviral therapy. J Acquir Immune Defic Syndr. 2002;29:169–173. [PubMed] [Google Scholar]
  13. Drain PK, Baeten JM, Overbaugh J, Wener MH, et al. Low serum albumin and the acute phase response predict low serum selenium in HIV-1 infected women. BMC Infect Dis. 2006;6:1–6. [PMC free article] [PubMed] [Google Scholar]
  14. Hurwitz BE, Klaus JR, Llabre MM, Gonzalez A, et al. Suppression of human immunodeficiency virus type 1 viral load with selenium supplementation: A randomized controlled trial. Arch Intern Med. 2007;167:148–154. [PubMed] [Google Scholar]
  15. Mantero-Atienza E, Beach RS, Gavancho MC, Morgan R, et al. Selenium status of HIV-1 infected individuals. JPEN J Parenter Enteral Nutr. 1991;15:693–694. [PubMed] [Google Scholar]
  16. Hori K, Hatfield D, Maldarelli F, Lee BJ, Clouse KA. Selenium supplementation suppresses tumor necrosis factor alpha-induced human immunodeficiency virus type 1 replication in vitro. AIDS Res Hum Retroviruses. 1997;13:1325–1332. [PubMed] [Google Scholar]
  17. Broome CS, McArdle F, Kyle JA, Andrews F, et al. An increase in selenium intake improves immune function and poliovirus handling in adults with marginal selenium status. Am J Clin Nutr. 2004;80:154–162. [PubMed] [Google Scholar]


Reading the Riot Act


The following was my presentation to Trust Council today (March 11, 2020)

Thank you Mr. Chairman

I do not relish being here today to speak to this issue.

I am here today speaking on behalf of all property owners in the Trust Area who are or should be outraged at the state of affairs of application processing in the Trust Area as I outlined in my recent letter to you all.

As a taxpayer I was shocked last year to find just how poorly the Trust has been operating when it comes to processing land use applications, and, the resulting impact on taxes.

To be clear, when I say “the Trust” I am collectively referring to the corporate body, Trust Council, its appointed CAO, the provincial government employees employed as planning staff, including the Director of Local Planning Services and the Regional Planning Managers, all of whom have a statutory duty to follow established Trust Policies.

In 2004 I was likewise shocked to find the average cost of processing an application within the Trust Area was $17,000. When I brought the matter to the attention of Trust Council senior staff could not provide a substantial explanation of why it was costing so much, or where the time was being spent. I recommended to Council that time tracking software be purchased and implemented, and, I understand my recommendation was followed in 2006 after I left office.

However, at the time there was already Trust Policy, established circa 1993 through 1996, which should have acted as a failsafe to protect taxpayers. However, that failsafe has failed because the Policy has not been followed by Staff, and, has been ignored by Trust Council as a whole.

As a result of that failure, I estimate that over $20 million of subsidy to development within the Trust Area has been inappropriately been placed on the backs of the very same taxpayers who elected every local trustee sitting around this table to represent their best interests…as local trustees who have a duty to ensure the trust placed in their elected representative is upheld and not broken.

It was reported to you last year at this time that 92.7%, or $2,092,000, of the cost of application processing was paid by taxpayers.

How much should have been paid by taxpayers if the failsafe Trust Policies were followed? Zero dollars.

How then has this been allowed to continue since 2004 when I first rang the alarm on behalf of those I represented?

Well, in 2007 the Trust paid thousands of dollars to Stantec Consulting to look into the matter. Stantec completed their report and provided recommendations which were brought forward to this corporate body in September 2007. The efficiency of processing applications was quantified by Stantec at 43%…put in another way, the inefficiency at the time was 57%.

So, according to the data published last year, the Trust is now about 6 times less efficient in processing an application than in 2007, and about 13 times less efficient than Trust Policy dictates it should be.

It is unquestionable and undeniably clear that Staff have not been following Policy. However, the question as to “why” Staff haven’t been following policy is not.

And that is what is really at the heart of this issue. How is it that for 16 years, two Chief Administrative Officers, three Directors of Local Planning Services later, staff is still, to this day, not following Policies?

The Policies are clear. They were intended to be clear when they were written and adopted by Trust Council. They set out exactly how long Application Processing should take for any one of 15 different applications. They set out exactly the process Staff are to follow when first considering the cost of processing an application. They set out exactly how much time it should take, and therefore how much an average application will cost, planners to process. They set out exactly how Staff are to estimate and calculate extraordinary costs, and they set out exactly how Staff are to invoice applicants, not taxpayers, for additional costs.

And yet, the Policies have been entirely ignored.

When we explore the results of ignoring them, a number of things become clear.

1. There is consequently no time constraint on how much time Staff can spend on an application. In other words, ignoring the policies means there is no check on the efficiency of any planner as to how efficiently they process a particular application. Time becomes meaningless.

2. The result of no check on efficiency of application processing means applications take longer to process. The proof of this is clearly presented in the fact that applications, on average, are taking 13 times longer than they should. I’m going to say that again – Applications are taking 13 times longer on average to process than they should.

3. What is the impact on applicants when an application takes 13 times longer than it should? I would suggest you ask that question of virtually any applicant which has come before any of your Local Trust Committees over the past 16 years. Ask them what their additional costs have been due to the time delays they have experienced.

4. The impact on taxpayers is startling. Over 25% of the Trust’s entire budget last year, paid for by the electors you were all elected to represent, was in essence flushed down the proverbial drain. Because of this, given the 16 years since I first brought this to the attention of the Trust, it is not a stretch to suggest the cost to taxpayers has been well over $20 million dollars. $20 million dollars of taxpayers’ hard earned, after tax dollars, to subsidize development within the Trust Area simply because this corporation has ignored Policy.

5. The fact that applications take 13 times longer begs the question whether there is an actual unwritten, internal policy adopted by staff to ignore the written policies and take their time processing applications, in order to slow development in the Trust Area down. Given the entirety of circumstances, and the magnitude of the issue, that’s NOT an unreasonable question to ask.


The Trust has woken somewhat to this issue, because there is now a new, proposed Application Processing Template bylaw in draft form.

When I read through it I was impressed by the fact the Trust Policies which are still not being adhered to are not even mentioned…while at the same time the primary “solution” being touted is simply to raise application fees.

With all due respect, this is akin to a chicken farmer being told by the fox he doesn’t need to mend the fence… he just needs to get a few more chickens.

According to the Staff report on the draft bylaw, an average rezoning application costs about $12,000 to process. Comparing that to the existing Policy guidelines, that suggests an average rezoning application is taking only 3 times longer than it should, not 13 times longer than the financial data show for applications. Then where is the additional time spent? Something doesn’t add up here and no audit has been conducted which would shed more light.

In addition, even if Staff’s current recommendations are adopted, it means taxpayers will still be picking up about $1.5 million a year in subsidizing development applications.

To that point, there is some discussion within the Staff Report about the “benefit” to the public of the Trust in processing a development application. With all due respect, if one taxpayer wants to make an application to rezone a property, why should a taxpayer from Lasqueti pay for ANY part of processing a land use application on Salt Spring? Especially when there are specific policies to address this?

With all due respect the current proposal is entirely inadequate, and, in my opinion, attempts to veil the underlying inefficiency which is apparent.

And this is where the issue begins to boil down to its essence. If applications are taking 13 times longer on average to process, one approach would be to increase application fees 13 fold. However, what would the consequences of that be?

Well, the very first taxpayer to apply for a rezoning application would be told the application fee has recently been increased from $5,000 to $65,000. And, what do you think you, as the elected representative, would hear from that taxpayer? This would become front page news, as it should now be.

Instead, Staff are recommending you make things more complicated, add on a few additional charges here and there, and only charge a total of say $12,000….which would leave taxpayers to pick up the additional $53,000 of processing.

I’m going to put it to you all that this situation has been out of control for over 16 years, and has gotten worse, not better, over that time.

The question of whether this whole matter is actionable has arisen. Do you, and this corporate body, owe an administrative duty of care to the electors of the Trust Area to ensure the Trust’s Policies are followed, to ensure the taxpayers are receiving fair service for fair cost? That’s a great question, and as our representative one you should all be asking yourselves.

If this was a private corporation which you owned, and you discovered it was operating at a 7.1% efficiency, and that you were subsidizing that inefficiency by over $2,000,000 a year, and that the reason for the subsidy was that the CAO you appointed, and your Directors and employees had been collectively blatantly ignoring company policies for 16 years, in spite of an independent consultant’s report and recommendations leading to a $20 million loss…I’m going to ask you… would you demand that heads roll and that existing policies be enforced, or, just continue business as usual and raise rates to try and cover the ongoing losses?

It’s entirely your decision to make, one way or another. You are the captains of this enterprise, but, it is long past time to right this ship.

Thank you.

Eric Booth, Islands Trustee (2002-2005).

Lost in Interpretation on Salt Spring

Bill Murray 1

The following, in blue, is my commentary on Mr. Robinson’s article.

Viewpoint: Dark underbelly showing

 Feb 18, 2020


Over the weekend, while enjoying the facilities at Centennial Park with my grandson, I witnessed a man urinating on a police officer’s car as the peacekeeper was engaging a rough-looking crowd drinking in public. How do I describe my reaction? I leave it to you good citizens to decide. My five-year-old grandson would have the opinion that it was at very least a poor performance. I can draw no conclusion other than it was a symbolic act, an insult to both the constabulary and the community. Another observer remarked to me that our island home will never be the same. I hope not.

The above is an entirely reasonable observation and commentary.

I have always believed that how we treat the least fortunate members of our community is a direct reflection of who we are. I am very happy to see my tax dollars support those in need.

I completely agree…those who are the “least fortunate” and are actually in need should be supported. 

I am, however, becoming increasingly concerned over the challenge of determining who are the worthy candidates versus those who are opportunists, capable but unmotivated to contribute to the common weal.

Here Mr. Robinson brings up the gist of the article – the concern, expressed by many in the community over the question of the differentiation of who are “in need” and those who “take advantage” of goodwill. An example of why that question has been raised more often on the island over the past couple of years relates to the Food Bank. The Food Bank’s purpose is help those “in need” within the community. Those who are, for example, facing temporary unemployment, or are handicapped, or are single parents struggling. The Food Bank was not created to feed an ever increasing, able-bodied, tourist/transient population. Thus, Mr. Robinson’s use of the words “opportunists, “capable,” “unmotivated” and not “contributing.” to the community.

Mr. Robinson makes it clear he has no problem contributing some of his own money (tax dollars) to help those “in need.”

What he, and many others, have a problem with is what are the factors which should be taken into account when asking the rather practical question – “Why are you deserving of help?”

Is that a reasonable question to ask, given limited resources? Is it a reasonable question to ask of someone able bodied? I believe the answer is yes.

To me this issue is amplified in an island microcosm, where spaces, housing, human and financial resources are literally finite.

I agree…the issue is amplified, and, unfortunately, the amplification is not the result of all of the homeless people. It is the result of a few people who, due to a lack of common respect issues (littering, drinking, obnoxious behavior, fighting, etc.), are placing the majority in a poor light.Every morning I pick up the litter remnants of the night before – liquor bottles, cans, empty cigarette packages, garbage, coffee cups, clothing, dog shit, tissue paper, food trays, etc. strewn about. I’m going to ask every reader – is that the product of reasonable behavior for adults who wish to be respected?

As I have witnessed the “dark underbelly” of the homeless population increase, i.e., those who are preying upon our good will, property and quality of life, I recognize that an equal proportion of those most deserving of our support are more likely to be displaced and tarnished by this metastasizing cancer. What to do?

Let’s take a look at Mr. Robinson’s analogy of a “metastasizing cancer.” Cancer begins when one cell in the body is damaged. Eventually one damaged cell becomes two, and then four and then 8, etc.. Unchecked, the cancer will eventually kill all cells and the body in which all cells reside. As it applies to the issue at hand, Mr. Robinson is stating the number of those who disrespect the community, and its environment, in which they currently reside, are increasing. I agree, and would challenge anyone who says the situation has plateaued, or is lessening.  

Mr. Robinson however defends those who are “most deserving of our support” and, fears that those “in need” are “more likely to be displaced and tarnished” as a result of others’ actions. 

I understand his perspective, because it is decent, common sense.

The homeless question: Is there a solution? The words question and solution have a somewhat sinister ring to them, but cannot be ignored for the sake of propriety. So how do we identify the miscreants from the meritorious in our homeless population?

The term “miscreant” means “a person who behaves badly or in a way that breaks the law.” So, Mr. Robinson is asking how do we identify those are disrespectful, and who behave badly, from those truly “in need.”

I don’t think it’s as difficult as you might imagine, because as I witnessed at Centennial Park, they seem to identify themselves. The problem I observed in that particular example is that there appeared to be no ticketing, detention or arrest of the individuals acting in contravention of the law. I suspect this is a consequence of an ongoing and overwhelming battle of attrition, as police officers tire of endless paperwork and a revolving door at the courthouse.

The incident in question – drinking in public and pissing on a police vehicle – could only be considered a taunt, looking for a reaction. The fact that there wasn’t an immediate reaction indicates tolerance on the part of the peace officers. However, Mr. Robinson begs the question as to whether that actually was an appropriate reaction.

There must be consequences for criminal and antisocial behaviour; those who escape them are otherwise emboldened by their experience, and thus we are on a slippery slope in their absence. Here I will assert that prison, though appropriate for many, is an expensive and counterproductive means of rehabilitation for those who require a hand up by means of correction for their desultory citizenship. Let’s not send them to crime school.

Any reasonable person would agree there should be “consequences for criminal and antisocial behaviour.” Here, however, Mr. Robinson makes it clear he doesn’t believe sending someone to jail is the solution to the issues at hand.

I agree…up to a point. Certain violent offenders do need to be taken off the streets. But, they aren’t representative of even the minority.

Would it be too draconian to suggest repeat offenders be sent to work camps where by their own sweat and toil they may be instilled with a sense of self worth and purpose for their contribution to the common good, as well as the insight that such industry on the “outside” is preferable to the alternative?

This last comment by Mr. Robinson has drawn howls of social media outrage from some, with comparisons to Japanese internment camps, or Gulags, or Nazi concentration camps.

I fear thou doth protest too loudly….

First, Mr. Robinson makes it clear it is the “repeat offenders” who he is referring to. The troublemakers, the disrespecters, the instigators…take your pick. 

He makes it clear that the suggestion of sending the “repeat offenders” to “work camps” is a potential alternative to sending them to prison.

He also makes it clear, that his hope is that by the “repeat offenders” actually having to work for food and shelter, as opposed to having it handed to them on a platter may actually “instill” them with a “sense of self worth and purpose for their contribution to the common good, as well as the insight that the alternative IS prison.”

So, what he is really asking the “repeat offenders” is – which would you prefer?

I don’t see that as an unreasonable offer.  

When I read an article I try and understand what someone is saying because, as is the case here, content can be lost in interpretation. 


Of “Liveaboards” and “Liveonlands”


There is now discussion beginning to foment on how liveaboards can be legalized (if they need legalizing, since there is already ongoing debate on that issue).

However, it occurred to me today that on-land liveaboards, which I’m going to call “liveonlands,” in the form of Z240 RV rated trailers and 5th Wheels, and, insulated Tiny Homes, (all with water, appliances, toilets with holding tanks) are arguably as, or more, “liveable” than liveaboards, when it comes to what would be considered “liveable.”

So, my question to our elected representatives is this – “If/when you begin to formally discuss legalizing liveaboards, are you at the same time going to discuss legalizing liveonlands?”

One Down, One to Go

Bylaw 471

With the hopeful demise of Bylaw 512, housing proponents should set their scopes on Bylaw 471.

Once again, staff have missed the mark with this bylaw proposal.

Rather than demanding people jump through the Temporary Use Permit gauntlet (which is similar in process to a rezoning), and in keeping with the KISS principle, all that needs to happen is to make TWO minor changes to the definition of “mobile home” in the existing Bylaw 355, and ADD one definition.

Change from:

“mobile home” means a transportable, single or multiple section dwelling unit conforming to the Canadian Standards Association Z240 Series of Standards at time of manufacture, and designed and intended for residential occupancy and set up in accordance with required factory installation details.


“mobile home” means a TINY HOME ON WHEELS, OR A transportable, single or multiple section dwelling unit conforming to the Canadian Standards Association Z240 OR Z240RV Series of Standards at time of manufacture, and designed and intended for residential occupancy and set up in accordance with required factory installation details.  

and add:

“Tiny home on wheels” means a dwelling unit on a wheeled chassis with a maximum floor area of 37.5 square metres.

By making those changes, 4 season RV’s (most 5th Wheels and Trailers) and tiny homes would be defined as “dwellings” under the bylaw, since dwellings include “mobile homes.”

(Hopefully) Post Mortem Comments on 512

Hearse 1The following are my consolidated thoughts/comments/criticisms/solutions on proposed Bylaw 512 after the Public Hearing.


  1. After legalizing 411 of the 1300 potential properties for long term use of a cottage, will our elected representatives proactively enforce against the 900 properties, many of which are currently illegally renting their cottages?
  2. If not, what is the purpose of legalizing the 411?
  3. Why not just amend the term “seasonal cottage” to “cottage” and allow full time rental of the cottages? The cottages can ALREADY be LEGALLY rented out, short term, BUT 365 days a year, as part of a B&B business, to people who don’t live here. Why on Earth wouldn’t we give the same “privilege” to those who already live here?
  4. If Bylaw 512 is passed, the list of reasons created by Staff as to why the 900 leftover cottages shouldn’t be rented long term will provide a “rationale” as to why those 900 should be enforced against…opening a door to complaints by any disgruntled neighbour, using Trust Staff’s rationale.
  5. With the lowest priced 3+ acre property with an existing principal residence and existing cottage, now at $950,000, there is little appetite for someone who can qualify for a million dollar purchase to become a landlord, putting a long term tenant into a cottage. The challenge of giving notice to vacate, under the current Tenancy Act regulations, would give any property pause before renting.
  6. There is likewise virtually no incentive to place a restrictive covenant on the title of a property which would reduce the potential for resale, especially if the sale of the property necessarily includes the existing tenant. Why would a property owner not just continue to rent their cottage illegally, like virtually every other cottage rental on the island?
  7. Why remove the current right of a property owner to rent their cottage out as part of their B&B operation?
  8. Every cottage which is constructed must be permitted and inspected by the CRD building inspection department. During the permit application process, CRD will demand the owner show how they are going to meet water and septic requirements under the BC Building Code and Island Health septic requirements. Why would Bylaw 512 then need to require anything additional/different?
  9.  By designating the 411 cottages as 5% of the total buildout, the bylaw would effectively lockup 411 potential dwelling densities into the future, regardless of whether ANY of them were actually ever used as legal, long term rentals, thereby removing the potential for some of the 900 leftovers to be used.
  10. Trust Staff have misread the “guideline” in the OCP which they believe makes it mandatory for our elected representatives to make changes “incrementally.” The preamble to that section states the LTC “should” consider the guidelines. It DOES NOT say “must” or “will.” Thus the “incremental” guideline can be ignored if our elected representatives believe it is the best interests of the community to legalize ALL cottages for long term rental.
  11. What would the result be, the day after the bylaw was passed, when someone applies to build a community housing project, which would increase the overall density of the island? Will that pose a conflict with the OCP as a result of Bylaw 512’s increase in density?

Two Easy Solutions:

  1. Legalize all cottages for long term rental outright.
  2. Allow cottages to be “building stratified” under the condition that the sale price of the cottage be set (e.g. $200,000) and that, as part of the approval of stratification, a covenant be placed on the cottage’s title similar to Whistler Housing Authority’s Community Housing system.

Sales/resales would be restricted to someone already living or working on the island. Resale price would be limited, using the $200k example, to $200K plus the percentage Consumer Price Index increase from purchase to sale.

For example, if the CPI increase over a 5 year period was 5%, the resale value would be set at $210,000. Thus, the resale of the cottage would remain affordable.

This would be a win/win/win solution. The existing property owner would win by realizing the capital investment of their cottage, the purchaser would win by purchasing a cottage to live in and build equity at an affordable level, and the community would win by having the cottage put into the long term community housing stock.

This isn’t a new idea…Whistler has been successfully doing it for over 20 years and, it was recommended just over 9 years ago to the LTC of the day.

Everything Old is New Again

The following are draft minutes from a January 31, 2011 advisory meeting, held outside of the public’s eye and knowledge, with former Whistler Housing consultant, Tim Wake, Trustees George Ehring and Christine Torgrimson, Henry Kamphof, CRD Housing, Trust Planner Susan Palmer, Islands Trust Regional Planning Manger David Marlor (now Director of Local Planning Services) and housing consultant Janis Gauthier. If you want to skip the notes and go to the recommendations (highlighted in red), scroll down to the bottom.

The Chair asked each Trustee and guest for their priorities for the day’s discussion using the circulated “Guidelines for discussion with Tim Wake”.. The following priorities were articulated:

– How to maintain affordability other than with housing agreements;

– How to use the local bylaws to control affordable housing;

– Housing agreements;

– Creation of a housing council and the Whistler experiences;

– Water supply;

– Discussion should be grounded in the reality of the current situation;

– Pilot areas within the Salt Spring context; and

– Best approach to existing suites and cottages.

The Trustees outlined the key issues on Salt Spring Island for Tim Wake.

Tim Wake commented that the Salt Spring Island situation is similar to Whistler insofar as there is a challenge to supply both workforce housing and “other” supportive housing. It’s important to keep the two separate. The gap between people who can afford market ownership housing and those who qualify for subsidized housing has grown. This is referred to as middle sector housing or workforce housing and represents the biggest need.

Wake noted that there is a good system in place for the delivery of subsidized housing which requires major funding from senior levels of government.

Wake suggested that putting housing agreements on rental units is not the best approach given the cost. It’s better to respond to people who want to own their own homes and consider how to make ownership possible for these people. This in turn will reduce pressure on the rental inventory. The first thing to do is to legalize suites.

Janis Gauthier observed that the seasonal use of cottages is an issue on Salt Spring. It means many people have to move each spring. There are concerns about the poor condition of some cottages.

Tim Wake said that Whistler had success enforcing and inspecting units based on health and safety issues. When they hear about substandard conditions, the fire department is asked to inspect.

There are concerns that legalized cottages could be used as short term vacation rentals. Rental agreements would better ensure there are controls.

Tim Wake explained that Whistler had the same problems with suites as with separate buildings (cottages). Secondary suites have always been permitted in Whistler and initially the market was providing them at a rate of about 50 per year. For the owner, the suite provided security and helped with the mortgage. In 1990 and 1992 when house prices rose, the number of new suites decreased. About 1997, Whistler required that every second residence in a new subdivision include a suite before the owner received an occupancy permit. The suite had a covenant on it that specified occupancy and rent. This was not a good solution because suites were being built under duress and never rented. Enforcement of the housing agreements was difficult. The conclusion was that you can’t force people to rent suites in their houses.

Other communities (Bowen Island, for example) have not had a lot of uptake with straight legalization of suites even without any income or rental restrictions. Adding a housing agreement would likely reduce the uptake further.

Planner Palmer asked if having a housing agreement on a suite or cottage would affect the owner’s ability to get a mortgage.

Tim Wake responded that it is usually not any more difficult to get a mortgage, but when doing a statement of income, the owner can only apply 50% of the rent as income. Thus with a lower, more affordable rent, it may be tougher to get a mortgage. This leads to vacation rentals being so attractive.

The Whistler Bylaw requires that suites be rented for not less than one month. In addition, commercial accommodation is taxed differently. Another tool is the Occupancy Declaration on employee owned deed-restricted units. They started with a Statutory Occupancy Declaration, but abandoned that. Now it’s voluntary and compliance has improved; 66% of 500 units complied.

The Declarations (who was living there, where they worked and the rent amount) are sent by email so it’s easy to administer.

There are no Housing Agreements on the 1000 rental suites. Generally owners didn’t charge exorbitant rents because when they do, the number of people living in a unit tends to increase, with resultant wear and tear or damage. 850 of the rental suites are market rents; the rest are mostly covenanted and affordable. Suites have always been legal and only a small percentage are cottages. Legalizing suites provides more opportunity for surveillance and assists in managing the existing inventory.

It was noted that the growth rates experienced by Whistler are very different from the Salt Spring situation where only 38 building permits were issued last year. The Chair noted there is a desire to ensure affordability if suites are legalized. Tenants might have more clout if suites were legal.

For Tim Wake, the solution starts with affordable home ownership. If you apply Housing Agreements and restricted rents to suites, you’d be moving middle income tenants out of their accommodation in order to house needier people. Subsidized housing is not a municipality’s responsibility. Housing Agreements are costly up front, and they’re better used on ownership units.

RPM Marlor commented that Housing Agreements can work if governments are providing something as well, i.e. funding, increased densities or other incentives.

The potential for more STVRs operating out of legalized cottages is a real concern, on Salt Spring, and the STVR Bylaw is costly, slow and difficult to enforce.

Tim Wake spoke of one STVR enforcement case in Whistler where bad publicity played an effective deterrent role.

Regarding multi-unit buildings, Tim Wake said Housing Agreements on such projects are not very attractive to developers. You need to be able to bonus the developer to get him to build, and then have some means for the housing authority to take ownership. It’s hard to impose covenants on a third party.

There was a question about available government grants (RRAP for secondary suites), and Tim Wake replied that $24,000 is not a sufficient incentive to shift someone into accepting a covenant on their property. Incentives that do work for developers include an increase in density, relief from fees and charges, and creating good communication opportunities with developers. It’s important to explore where the ‘win-win’ is.

There was a question about the cost of managing Housing Agreements. Tim Wake responded that every project is a one-off, with the standard costs plus, and further, that Housing Agreements seem to need ongoing modification.

There was a question about whether a Housing Agreement with an expiry date might be an alternative, but Tim Wake said it wasn’t really a viable approach.

In general, said Wake, Housing Agreements are not worth the effort for a handful of rental suites, but are worthwhile on affordable owned units. He added that putting occupancy restrictions on owned units did not work. The focus should be on letting the market provide rental suites and finding ways to make it work for the market.

At noon, Henry Kamphof arrived at the meeting. He said there is talk of doubling the CRD’s affordable housing budget and that there should be more emphasis on worker housing.

Traditionally 75% of funds have gone to supportive housing.

According to Wake, continuing the status quo with suites and cottages will have a negligible impact on affordable stock but would affect standards of health and safety and the existence of sub-standard units.

The discussion moved on to the matter of the proposed pilot project for legalizing suites and cottages. The Chair outlined the reasons a pilot project has been proposed, noting it takes into consideration Salt Spring’s water issues and also responds to the results of community consultations. One goal would be to gather data from the participants.

Henry Kamphof spoke about the so-called California model where developers must address different income segments in the community within a development proposal.

Tim Wake reported that Bowen Island is looking at zoning solutions to create opportunities for building more affordable ownership units i.e. zoning to permit smaller units, combining lots to permit multi-family units, upzoning to permit more units; creating more duplexes, stratifying large homes into flats and other innovative approaches to encourage the creation of smaller homes.

He noted that people often don’t want to buy units with Housing Agreements; they commonly see home ownership as the route to a retirement fund.

Returning to the subject of the pilot project, Planner Palmer asked if a time limited Bylaw with a sunset clause might work as a tool to legalize suites and cottages.

Tim Wake responded that it’s better to open a door and encourage compliance, not open a window and require people to jump through it.

Henry Kamphof added that a pilot project would need to run for 3 – 5 years to get a good sense of how it is working.

Trustee Ehring is concerned about how to deal with suites and cottages which are outside the pilot area and are therefore illegal.

Trustee Torgrimson commented that pilot areas would be compliant with OCP criteria and reflect the heightened concern about watershed areas on Salt Spring.

Tim Wake suggested that a pilot area might only apply to new development, and the rest would be grandfathered. He asked if Salt Spring would likely see a lot of applications to build new housing with suites? There could be issues around grandfathering suites which don’t meet building code, a matter which might call for legal advice. RPM Marlor said it would be possible to do a bylaw review when a certain number of suites are registered. If legalization were opened up to the whole island, you could then develop strong arguments for some exclusion.

There was some discussion about jurisdictions implementing regulations around the collection of rain water as a means to resolve water issues.

Janis Gauthier commented that ‘pilot’ implies a sense of temporary or provisional status. It was agreed that ‘pilot’ was perhaps not the most useful term.

Henry Kamphof mentioned that Esquimalt is talking about allowing housing in back yards or on back lanes.

Tim Wake made several closing points:

1) start a housing corporation or authority as soon as possible: regional would be work best for all the islands. It would be an agency that would facilitate partnerships to develop nonsubsidized affordable home ownership. The Whistler Housing Authority is a good example of an agency that brokers between developers and the local government and is not a top-down funded model. Funding comes from the projects, not from taxes;

2) focus on affordable ownership units; and

3) legalize suites and cottages without restrictions.



Banking Our Most Important Resource – Water

Water drop

I recently posted a bit of a tongue-in-cheek “rainwater collection/graywater recycling” graphic .

However, that elicited a comment on Facebook that we should just store rainwater in the ground.

That made we ask myself the question – Is anyone doing that proactively, as opposed to passively?

One quick Google search later, I found this:

How We Can Bank Water Underground For Use Later On.

Now, take a look at the latest lake level data January 28, 2020 Lake Levels

Typically, from the beginning of December through to the beginning of May, millions of gallons of fresh water flow out of the two lakes and into the ocean.

So, drill some groundwater wells near St. Mary and Lake Maxwell, and pump water into the underground aquifer for 5 months, and then reverse the flow when/if water is needed in the Summer and pump water back into the lake.

Given no treatment would be required, total cost could easily be under a few hundred thousand dollars.

Now, THAT would be real water conservation, making the most of a controllable resource. Stop turning good fresh water into unusable salt water.






novacula Occami (Occam’s Razor) is the problem-solving principle that states that “Entities should not be multiplied without necessity.” The idea is attributed to English Franciscan friar William of Ockham (c. 1287–1347), a scholastic philosopher and theologian who used a preference for simplicity to defend the idea of divine miracles.

It is sometimes paraphrased by a statement like “the simplest solution is most likely the right one”.

It is also sometimes paraphrased as Keep It Simple Stupid (KISS).

It is highly unfortunate that most bureaucrats never learned, or embraced, that principle, either in high school, or in the halls of higher learning.

With respect to proposed bylaw 512 our elected representatives could give us a KISS and simply remove the word “seasonal” from the term “seasonal cottage” and, by doing so, could legalize the hundreds of ILLEGAL rentals which have, for decades, and long before the Islands Trust Act, formed part of our affordable rental housing stock.

Its not rocket science and its not brain surgery, and its certainly not rocket surgery.

I put forward the following question to the Chair of the Local Trust Committee and our representatives on Tuesday night:

“After you have legalized, for long term rental, 400 of 1300 properties which can, or do, have a seasonal cottage on them, are you going to then enforce against the 900 ILLEGAL seasonal cottages and evict the illegal tenants? If your answer is “No,” then what good does Bylaw 512 actually do?”

So, please…give us a KISS solution and then get on with real solutions to the housing crisis because 512 is nothing more than an illusionary bandaid, and nothing closely resembling a divine miracle…which is what we need to save us from losing this community.

And, I’m going to respectfully suggest you KISS us sooner than later, because, from the tone of the crowd on Tuesday night, Salt Spring Islanders are getting tired of biting their lips.



Why “Vacant” Homes are Part of the Solution Long Term

Subtitle – “A Cow Named Density”

sacred cow

Rather incessantly I hear people say that vacant homes on Salt Spring are a reason why we have a housing crisis.

Uh…no…that’s not even remotely why, and, I’ll tell you why, and, why vacant homes are part of a solution to the housing crisis long term….stay with me here.

A vacant home is owned by someone, and, the likelihood is THAT someone, given they aren’t living in the vacant home, is living in another home somewhere else part of the year.

On Salt Spring, vacant homes usually are only vacant for maybe 8-10 months of the year, the rest of the time they are occupied, usually from Mayish to Septemberish, since the island is a world class spot to be in the late Spring, Summer and early Fall. Hardly any bugs, nice temperature, long daylight hours…and, to top it off, in Canada.

So, “vacant homes” would be better to be referred to as “semi-vacant homes,” which wouldn’t be available for renting full time, year round, to someone who needs a full time rental home.

The idea of extra-taxing “semi-vacant” homes is a separate matter, which I won’t get into in this piece…but, I will explain below why semi-vacant homes are actually a good thing when it comes to our current taxation.

The single largest issue which arises whenever the subject of additional development on the island is brought up is the local sacred cow we have, that goes by the name “Density.”

Density, long term, refers to the total number of legal homes, apartments, suites, townhomes, and mobile homes which can be built on the island.

Currently, that number is approximately 8,000. 5% of that is 400, which is what the current seasonal cottage bylaw is suggesting legalizing for potential rentals (an ill-conceived a proposal, in its current form, as there ever has been).

Now, 8,000 densities x 2.1 people per house average (2016 Census) = 16,080 people at buildout.

That’s about 6,000 more people than our current population.

BUT, we need affordable housing for the middle class, since currently you need to make $200,000/year to qualify to buy the median priced home on the island ($850,000).

Clearly, the “affordable” component will not be part of the 8,000.

And this is where vacant homes become a benefit to the community.

IF we say we need an additional 3,000 homes, at an affordable level, our buildout density would become 11,000 x 2.1 = 22,110 people.

BUT, if 25% of the 8,000 market homes were vacant, the year round population would drop by 4,040 to 18,070.

IF we could ENCOURAGE 40% of homes to be vacant, the population would drop by 7,070 to BELOW our current buildout population.

And yes, during the summer months our population would rise to around 22,000 for a few months, but, for the balance of the year we would actually have a SUSTAINABLE population of around 15,000.

The added bonus, is that the 25-40% of homes which were semi-vacant, would still be paying their share of taxes.

Realistically (and everyone reading this should come to grips with what I am about to say), vacant homes are not going to magically become affordable rentals.

Realistically, the number of rentals on the island is going to continue their current downwards trend, since, rentals are investment properties which eventually will be sold to someone who wants to move to Salt Spring. The average house for sale on Salt Spring in early 2020 is $1,024,000.

So Salt Spring, time to sober up and face the future…semi-vacant homes aren’t the problem, but, they can become part of the long term solution…but, first, and with apologies for the analogy to all animal lovers and vegans out there, we have to slaughter the cow named Density. We can do it humanely, and with acceptance, so that future generations of middle income residents will thank us for having the fortitude and vision to do what is necessary to create a truly sustainable, diverse community.

The alternative of course is to do nothing, and watch as the middle class continues to be turned into fodder for the sacred cow no one wants to talk about.



“Who” is the “Islands Trust?”

I often hear people saying something like, “The Islands Trust is proposing to downzone 400 properties and disallow the use of seasonal cottages as part of a B&B operation.”

The purpose of this article is to reveal/explain a couple of facts.

“The Islands Trust” does not exist as a corporate body. The Islands Trust is an Act.

As such, the only way that anything happens under the Act must be done by one two corporate bodies – “Islands Trust Council” or the “Salt Spring Island Local Trust Committee.”(SSILTC)

Islands Trust Council establishes, by bylaw, the policies, required under the Islands Trust Act to ensure its preserve and protect mandate is respected by the SSILTC when it prepares its OCP and Land Use Bylaws.

Now, what exactly is the SSILTC? It is a corporation which is comprised, essentially, of three directors (called trustees, which is, IMO, a misnomer), who are tasked with making land use decisions for Salt Spring.

The three “directors” consist of two, locally elected representatives, “local trustees,” who….and this is important….REPRESENT THE ELECTORS…NOT ISLANDS TRUST COUNCIL.

The third “director” is the Chairperson, who is elected by Islands Trust Council, and, who represents Island Trust Council to the SSILTC. The Chairperson DOES NOT represent Salt Spring, because they weren’t elected by Salt Spring Islanders.

The reality is therefore this – When a bylaw is proposed to be enacted, or amended, it is NOT the Islands Trust who is proposing the changes – IT IS YOUR ELECTED REPRESENTATIVES.

The oath of office which each director (trustee) takes makes no mention whatsoever of being a Trustee who must represent the best interests of the Islands Trust Act.

The definition of a local trustee is as follows:

local trustee means a trustee elected under section 6 from a local trust area;

6   (1) For each local trust area, 2 trustees are to be elected to represent the electors of the area.

trustee means a local trustee, a municipal trustee and a trustee of the trust fund, or any of them, as the context requires.

In other words, the term “trustee,” as it pertains to a “local trustee” means…and this gives you an idea of the circular ridiculousness of the definitions in the Act –

“local trustee means a local trustee who was elected to represent the electors of the area.”

Do you see anything in there which suggests a local trustee represents the Islands Trust?


So, the next time you hear someone say “The Islands Trust is going to do xyz…” please correct them and say, “You mean our elected representatives are proposing to do xyz…”