Charla Huber: Part-time residents can make a difference

I recently attended the Union of B.C. Municipalities conference in Vancouver. Being immersed in a group of diverse leaders, I knew I’d hear interesting ideas from a variety of perspectives.

At one point, I stopped and chatted with retired Langford fire chief Bob Beckett and Tofino Mayor Josie Osborne.

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Beckett was sitting down with Osborne, and I stopped to say hello. As we were chatting, Osborne referred to Beckett as “Bob Beckett from Bamfield.” Sure, there was the fun aspect of alliteration, but part of me was thinking: “He’s Bob Beckett from Langford.”

I joked back and said: “Come to Langford and say that.” Shortly after Beckett retired from the fire department, he was elected as a trustee for the Sooke school board. Beckett is also the director for Electoral Area A — Bamfield — for the Alberni-Clayoquot Regional District.

Osborne then changed the subject from Beckett to the benefits part-time residents can have on the communities they stay in.

We hear a lot about speculation tax and housing crunches, but I never stopped to think about the impact some of these homeowners have on the communities they live in part time.

Even though Tofino and Bamfield areas are not included in the speculation-tax zones, both communities have part-time residents.

Seventeen years ago, Beckett went to Bamfield with his family and fell in love with the community. The following year he rented a home there and, during the summer, he purchased a duplex. He rented out both suites and lived in a trailer on the property with his family. He has been spending time in the area ever since.

During 2017 and 2018, Beckett was a contractor at the Bamfield Marine Science Centre. In August 2018, while in the hardware store, residents approached him and asked him to run for the director position for the electoral area.

“I said: ‘I’m humbled, but I don’t live here, you should find someone who lives here,’ ” said Beckett. After some convincing from residents, he put his name forward and was acclaimed for the position.

Beckett and Osborne are both on the Alberni-Clayoquot Regional District board, which is similar to the Capital Regional District board. An interesting tidbit I learned during these interviews was that four treaty First Nations have seats at the regional district board, which I found very impressive.

The kind words Osborne has for Beckett are the same kind words people in Greater Victoria have for him. Other than being a longtime fire chief, Beckett is a past chair of the Vancouver Island YM-YWCA board of directors. He is a member of the Greater Victoria Public Library board and has been a Rotary member for 25 years. He has done a ton of service for Greater Victoria, and it’s inspiring to hear that the people of Bamfield appreciate him just as much as we do.

“Part-time residents spent money in our communities, they offer expertise, and they donate time and money to local organizations,” Osborne said.

“Retired NHL player Brendon Morrison has built up the Salt Water Classic fishing derby in Tofino and helped raise tens of thousands of dollars for local non-profits, community gardens, fish hatcheries and school lunch programs.”

When Osborne talked about how part-time residents in Tofino and surrounding areas make significant differences in the community, it had me rethinking about owners of second homes.

“There are not a lot of vacant homes in Tofino and speculation tax can be a powerful tool,” said Osborne. “There are second homeowners who work hard to be a part of the community. There are also second homeowners who are only looking at it as a financial investment. It’s a privilege to own a home and an even bigger privilege to own two homes.”

We’ve all heard about people who purchase properties solely as an investment, but I don’t think we hear about people like Beckett who live part-time in another community and make a significant impact in both.

This column isn’t about whether we should be for or against a speculation tax; it’s just a reminder that there are some second-home owners who are contributing members of society in all the communities they spend time with.

There are many people who volunteer in the community and communities they live in. All community contributions have an impact.

Charla Huber is the director of communications and Indigenous relations for the M’akola Housing Society and M’akola Development Services.

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