A comment on our Your Comments page from Mudge More Concerned pointed us toward an article in today’s Nanaimo Daily News. As MMC pointed out, the impact of a bridge on Mudge Island would be utterly catastrophic, so it’s ridiculous to exclude its residents from the discussion. But Mudge often gets left out when the “Gabriola bridge” is discussed. To treat it as invisible is disrespectful in the extreme, whether the invisibility results from ignorance, disregarding its existence completely, or treating it as simply a suburb of Gabriola and therefore not needing any distinct discussion (a position I suspect many Mudge residents would take strong issue with).
The Bridge-Free Salish Sea group, which has started actively campaigning against a bridge, was mentioned a couple of times in the News article. I’ve got a couple of comments on those mentions.
First, the News mentioned that “The group has no official spokesperson on its website” and quoted their position on not giving on-the-spot interviews. I want to point out that this is normal operating procedure for any group working based on consensus. I am not a member of BFSS, but I have been a member of groups using this approach, and my guess based on that experience is that the BFSS would be happy to provide written position statements in response to queries. Media outlets, I’d suggest sending them an email with a list of questions.
[As an irritated aside: a consensus-based approach does not, of course, provide as quick a response. But really, why does everything have to be instantnownownow? Is the news media today so incapable of providing slightly more leisurely, higher quality, detailed information and analysis?]
The other mention of the BFSS was by Jeremy Baker:
While he looks forward to the final report, Baker hopes it isn’t influenced by the newly-formed Bridge Free Salish Sea group, which advocates for no bridges anywhere in the Gulf Islands. “We have to deal with this organization,” Baker said. “I don’t think it’s fair for other Gulf Islanders to have any input into what Gabriola can have.”
Well, Gabriola Bridge is a site where a number of people opine on bridge-related issues, and I’m not required to seek consensus before offering my responses to this statement.
First, this may be the fault of the way the article was written or the editing of his remarks, but Baker’s statement reads as if he’s implying that the BFSS group are not Gabriola residents. They all are.
Secondly: a group of 660 people influenced the government to implement a study on the feasibility of a bridge. But the BFSS shouldn’t be able to influence anyone? Riiiigggghhht.
Finally, perhaps Baker is concerned that the BFSS is trying to start a movement throughout the Gulf Islands to garner anti-bridge/pro-island support. But NEWS FLASH! other Gulf Islanders already do have input into what Gabriola can have and can do—through the Islands Trust, our system of governance, which was put in place in 1974 to “control unbridled development and to ‘preserve and protect’ the islands.” (Note that “islands” is plural.) While Local Trust Committees “are responsible for land use planning and regulation for their respective area of jurisdiction,” the Trust Policy Statement “provides a broad planning framework to which all land use decisions must conform.”
And the Trust does has a position on bridges in its Bylaws: it stands firmly against them, priorizing protection over development. But the Trust’s governance and policy positions were apparently not mentioned by Baker.
Gabriola can’t unilaterally choose its direction with disregard for Trust policies. A demand that it be able to do so is therefore also a demand that it not be subject to Trust governance. On the other hand, a pro-island/anti-bridge position is by definition a call to support the mandate of the Islands Trust and the governance that protects a very special area. I fully support the Trust’s position, and see attempts to frame this as “Gabriolans only must decide” as an attack on the Trust as a whole.