SATURNA ISLAND PROPERTY OWNERS ASSOCIATION
Presidents Report – 2008-2009
It is now three and a half years since the formation of the Saturna Island Property Owners Association. By any measure our association is now well established and successful. This is largely because of the enthusiasm, support and hard work of members who have worked on specific projects and the on-going work of the members of the Executive Committee. Thank you all.
Before we get into the substantive issues I want to mention that reporting to our members about the year’s activities is becoming easier each year because of the success of our interactive group mail system and our organizational approach of providing information to our members via email or mail with only one meeting: our AGM.
Clearly sipoa@yahoogroups has turned out to be a “user-friendly” means to communicate online. More than 2/3 of our 175 members are on line and the ease with which we all can communicate with each other continues to amaze me. Most members who are online appear to be comfortable with reading as well as responding or posting information.
For those members not online, all documents and most letters to and from ministers and other elected representatives are mailed on a regular and as required basis. Two individuals who have asked to remain anonymous took the task of duplicating materials and mailings to members. They are retiring as of this meeting, on behalf of all of the Executive Committee, I thank them for their efforts over the past several years.
In terms of public outreach to all islanders, this past year SIPOA has hosted a public information session about BC Assessment and the assessment and appeal process. We continue to provide new property owners with a welcome package and appreciate the efforts of Susanne Middleditch to distribute the package and the Women’s Club which provides much of the general information for newcomers. We also submit articles to the Saturna Scribbler to inform non- members of our work.
SIPOA has continued its active correspondence and meetings with our MLA, Murray Coell and our MP, Gary Lunn. We recently met with Wayne Bourque, superintendent of Gulf Islands National Park. We expect to meet our new CRD representative in the near future.
SIPOA’s Activity Report
A good place to start is SIPOA’s yearly poll of member’s issues. Simply stated, this is the basis for our work. Members identify and prioritize issues to be investigated by SIPOA and the executive committee takes this input seriously. This year the executive is very encouraged that over 50 members participated in the 2009 survey (up from 35 last year). Obviously the more responses, the better the executive can represent members’ interests.
As for the issues, health and safety top the list for 2009, followed by perennial concerns about transportation - roads and ferries.
Ambulance services, emergency services, fire protection and health services were the top four.
Other issues include: Assessment, taxes and land use; business development and tourism, community involvement with board appointments and decision-making; education opportunities; environment and conservation; parks - local and national - and recreation,; volunteer recognition; low-cost housing, the building permit process; water; power lines, and the growing feral animal population.
Health and Emergency Care
Attention was focused on health and emergency services on Saturna in this past year. SIPOA and the Saturna Community Club (SCC) Health Services Committee are working together to find a sustainable funding model for infrastructure and the delivery of regular and emergency health services on Saturna.
In early December a working meeting, organized by Ron Monk and Murray Rankin on behalf of SIPOA, was held with representatives from SCC executive, its Health Services Committee, Saturna Island Rescue, the Saturna Island Fire Protection Society (SIFPS) and the Saturna Recreation Centre Society. Most of the follow up activities and information updates have been reported online and an outline of specifics will be provided with the print version of this report.
As follow-up to this meeting:
- Work was undertaken with Dawn Wood, Chair of the Health Committee to develop background data and budget assumptions for the clinic and ambulance.
- Two meetings were held with British Columbia Ambulance Service to assess opportunities, discuss the new regulations and other requirements regarding ambulance stations in remote locations. These discussions have yet to yield results.
- SIPOA has approached our MLA for funding to review alternative management approaches for the medical clinic. We are waiting for a response.
- Because of the uncertainty regarding the donations for the Ambulance Building held in trust by the Rec Centre for the Health Committee (SCC), SIPOA asked Canada Revenue Agency (CRA)for clarification regarding these donations. The CRA responded that as a charity, the constitution, bylaws and purposes of Rec Centre do not allow them to use these funds or provide land on which to site the Ambulance Building because the SCC is not a charitable society. To do so would jeopardize the Rec. Centre’s charitable status.
- In response, the Rec. Centre, SCC and the Fire Protection Society (SIFPS) have held discussions aimed at combining the new fire hall and ambulance building. SIFPS has applied for federal/provincial infrastructure funding for building the main fire and ambulance building as well as the satellite hall on East Point.
- SIFPS and SCC have begun discussions regarding the possibility of restructuring their current governance model by expanding their active mandate to include emergency medical services and required infrastructure as a separate function of the society. This could possibly include a name change.
- Discussion with Parks Canada regarding their staff’s volunteer commitment for emergency services on Saturna; also SIR needs a Memorandum of Understanding regarding medical responses/rescue/evacuations on Park lands.
As members know SIPOA has been actively lobbying the Ministry of Transportation (MOT) for better roads on the island. In this regard I want to thank Pat Ropars, Road Maintenance Foreman for Saturna, who has provided us with technical advice and assistance. The result of our work is that this year MOT will spend $1.5 million this summer for paving parts of our roads. It is not enough and we will continue to advocate for more funds for paving. To this end we have asked Murray Coell to pursue infrastructure funds for island roads to national park lands. Now that the election is over we will actively pursue this possibility. We also will continue to advise MOT when Mainroads, which has the contract for road repairs, fails to meet its contractual obligations. Eva Hage, a new board member, is a transportation economist who has worked with MOT and she will be taking on this file for the coming year.
Payments in Lieu of Taxes
SIPOA is of the view that the federal government has a duty to pay its fair share for national park lands on Saturna. To date it has not. SIPOA is of the opinion that this failure to adequately compensate the province directly affects the taxation levels of property owners on Saturna and also impacts on the province’s ability to provide essential services.
SIPOA also believes that this lack of adequate compensation for park lands is illegal under federal law and has scheduled a meeting with provincial officials to ask for a judicial review by the Federal Court. Murray Rankin has researched previous federal court decisions with regard to this matter and it appears there is case law which supports our position. I would like to thank Tom Johnstone on behalf of the executive committee for his ongoing assistance on this matter, his help in working with BC Assessment and his help in understanding the labyrinth of provincial/federal taxation practices.
This is an extremely important issue, it affects all our pocketbooks. Your executive will actively continue to pursue this issue to ensure property owners on Saturna are not forced to subsidize the park indefinitely.
Here is some background on the issue:
SIPOA discovered that until 2008, the province was not invoicing the federal government for all federal park lands. Because of our intervention BC Assessment and the Surveyor of Taxes have evaluated and invoiced $208,000 for all park lands on the island. The federal government paid just $34,000.
SIPOA has advised our MLA and our MP regarding this discrepancy. Murray Coell has already written to the BC minister of finance to support a provincial appeal. There has been no response from Gary Lunn and we will follow-up with him later this month.
All the background information we have gathered has been given to Wayne Bourque, Parks Canada, with the suggestion he advise his senior officials and Public Works Canada of our concerns. We understand Parks has requested Public Works to provide an update on the PILT paid for park lands in the last year.
SIPOA continues to provide members with information about the Saturna Island Fire Protection Society (SIFPS). This year we have posted two notices to members, including an invitation request for SIPOA members to join the SIFPS (at no cost or obligation). This is not just a suggestion to join yet another organization. It is a means of keeping in touch with the business side of a service vital to our community’s safety and well-being and which is primarily funded by Saturna’s property owners. A second notice offered an opportunity for property owners to purchase aluminum backed reflective house numbers to ensure fire fighters can easily find properties in an emergency.
SIPOA has written in support of the SIFPS application to the Canada – British Columbia Building Canada Building Fund for a grant to fund the new firehall/ambulance building and satellite building at East Point.
CRD/Islands Trust Taxation
Over the years there has been a persistent rumour that islanders are being doubled taxed by the CRD for services provided by the Islands Trust. The executive committee asked Tom Johnstone to research this matter and to report his findings. SIPOA can happily inform members that there is no double taxation on the part of the CRD for planning services.
Parks Canada/Saturna Liaison Committee
This past April Ron Hall became SIPOA’s representative on the liaison committee. He has begun posting meeting minutes online to keep our members informed about the planning and development in national park. Members are encouraged to contact him with any issues or concerns they may have.
In closing, this is my last meeting as president of SIPOA. I am retiring after two plus years and will stay on the board as past president. Following this meeting our Executive Committee will acclaim Bernie Zeigler as our new president, Murray Rankin as vice president. Other officers include Ellen Bourassa as treasurer, Susan Jamieson-McLaren as corresponding secretary and Marilyn Sewell as membership secretary.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank the members of the current executive committee for their support to me over the past two years and to especially thank retired members, Hugh Grasswick, Brian Haley, John Money, John Gaines, Richard Backus, Nick Kaiser and especially and husband, Ian Smyth, for their help in creating what is now a strong community voice for Saturna and all of its people.