NATURE WISE: Is democracy dead in the South Okanagan?

Democracy is indeed dead when it comes to Linda Larson representing her constituents.

Last month the proponents of the proposed south Okanagan –Similkameen national park released a new public opinion survey that shows overwhelming support amongst all groups for establishing a national park.

This survey, conducted in March of this year showed that 69 per cent of residents of the South Okanagan-Similkameen support “protecting a portion of the South Okanagan-Similkameen in a national park.” Further it showed that 65 per cent of the residents of MLA Linda Larson’s riding and 75 per cent of MLA Dan Ashton’s constituents support the establishment of a national park.  Broken down by the political party they support, the survey showed 71 per cent of BC Liberals support the park.  NDP supporters supported the park by the same margin while “only” 69 per cent of Conservatives supported the park.

Most telling, when broken down by the business or recreation activity they were involved in, 79 per cent of ranchers and farmers and 70 per cent of the hunters supported the park.  These are the very groups most cited by opponents of the park as a reason for opposing it.

Both Larson and Ashton regard themselves as having strong mandates to represent the people of their ridings.

Seldom in politics (and almost never in B.C. politics) have so many different constituencies aligned themselves in favour of something.  Here are just some of the groups that have passed resolutions in favour of the national park: Okanagan Nation Alliance, Okanagan Basin Water Board, South Okanagan Chamber of Commerce, BC Chamber of Commerce, Kelowna Chamber of Commerce, BC Wine Institute, Thompson-Okanagan Tourism Association, Tourism Penticton, Tourism Oliver, Destination Osoyoos, the Union of BC Municipalities,  RDOS, Regional District of Kootenay Boundary, BC Nature, David Suzuki Foundation, Greenpeace and on and on.

So if everyone from businesses to conservationists is in favour of a national park, who on earth is holding it up and why?

It seems the main opposition comes from a very few Liberal MLA’s.  For some unknown reason the Premier and the Provincial Minister of Environment have been convinced that there is a “lack of support” for a national park.

Mary Polak, Provincial Minister of Environment said the B.C. Government is not interested in reopening talks with Parks Canada.

Apparently the wishes of the residents and businesses of the South Okanagan are not important to the government. Perhaps the real problem stems from the fact that they have not yet been able to figure out how their supporters can make a bundle on a national park.

To paraphrase Winston Churchill, never have the legitimate aspirations of so many been frustrated by so few

Democracy is indeed dead when it comes to Linda Larson representing her constituents.

On another note, the upcoming Meadowlark Nature Festival is a great way to get out and enjoy our wonderful valley. With more than 75 different events, there is something to interest everyone.

The next meeting of the South Okanagan Naturalists’ Club will be May 28.

Bob Handfield is past-president of the South Okanagan Naturalists’ Club but the views expressed here are his own and not necessarily those of the Club.


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