Shaping the political environment

Next month brings an event that is extremely important in many respects and yet is ignored by a large portion of RDOS residents. I refer of course to the municipal elections. Many issues that affect the quality of our everyday life are determined at the local level, and even those which are ultimately decided by provincial officials can often be influenced by pressure from the local level. I think it is very important that we all participate in choosing our local leaders.

Next month brings an event that is extremely important in many respects and yet is ignored by a large portion of RDOS residents. I refer of course to the municipal elections. Many issues that affect the quality of our everyday life are determined at the local level, and even those which are ultimately decided by provincial officials can often be influenced by pressure from the local level. I think it is very important that we all participate in choosing our local leaders.

One of the most important issues that face all communities is the matter of land use — usually determined by zoning bylaws that are supposed to reflect the communities’ aspirations as expressed in the Official Community Plan. OCPs and zoning bylaws determine what a community will look like — what the housing density will be, how much park land we’ll have, what is important to the community, etc. OCPs generally take a significant amount of time to complete (18-24 months) and cost tens of thousands of dollars. One might assume then that OCPs would be subject to change only after considerable public debate, but that has not always been the case here in the South Okanagan. Ask your candidates — whether they are running for a city council or an RDOS electoral region — if they support the current OCP for your region. Basically everything that happens in a region is determined by the uses made of the land, and that is determined by the OCP and the zoning bylaws, so don’t let your candidates off the hook with wishy-washy answers.

About 18 months ago the RDOS adopted a regional growth strategy — a forward-looking plan designed to achieve many things, including stopping rural sprawl and enhancing environmental protection. This plan was approved by all of the major communities within the RDOS and adopted by the RDOS board after much research and discussion, many public hearings and numerous redrafts and amendments. Already some developers as well as ordinary land owners have tried to thwart the intent of this strategy. Ask your candidates where they stand on the regional growth strategy?

Water is another major issue for much of the Okanagan, although with Okanagan Lake and Skaha Lake at our doorsteps, one might think water would be a non-issue for us. Not so. Many smaller communities in the Okanagan (Faulder and Twin Lakes come to mind) as well as rural developments get their water from wells. Ground water is unfortunately in B.C. a provincial matter, but local communities can have input into the matter of water supply for proposed developments. Another good question for candidates is how they view the issue of water in our area?

Professional public opinion surveys were carried out in the South Okanagan in 2004 and again in 2008 to determine how the residents felt about various environmental issues. The results were very similar in both years but I’ll just summarize some of the 2008 findings here:

An overwhelming 91 per cent of residents agreed that protecting natural ecosystems and wildlife is needed to maintain the quality of life in the South Okanagan and Similkameen.

Eighty-seven per cent of residents felt regional and local governments should do more to protect the environment and conserve regional habitats and wildlife.

Seventy-seven per cent of residents believe we need stricter regulations to protect the environment in the South Okanagan and Similkameen.

Seventy-five per cent believe it is important to protect endangered species and their habitats in the long-term, even if that means putting restrictions on economic development.

Seventy-nine per cent are concerned about urban sprawl and poorly planned growth and the loss of agricultural land to housing.

Eighty-six per cent of those polled support establishing a conservation fund.

These are all overwhelming majorities, and yet to my mind, many of our local politicians do not seem to be on board with these ideas. Ask your candidates where they stand on these issues. Of course not everybody will agree on every issue, but press for answers before you vote, not after.

The South Okanagan Naturalists’ Club is presenting a fabulous opportunity to hear award winning authors and researchers John and Mary Theberge at our next meeting, Oct. 28. Meetings are held at the Penticton United Church on Main Street and start at 7:30 p.m. There is no charge. More details can be found at: www.southokanagannature.com.

 

 

Robert Handfield is past-president of the South Okanagan Naturalists’ Club.

 

Just Posted

Lightning in Kelowna, B.C. (Contributed)
Severe thunderstorm watch in effect for Okanagan

Conditions are favourable for the development of severe thunderstorms overnight

Justin Fotherby,17, and Ashley McMillan, 17 have been chosen for an invitation only competition that sees 20 of Canada’s top swimmers per event vying for a spot at the upcoming 2021 Tokyo Olympic Games. (Submitted)
Penticton swimmers off to Olympic trials

The pair are eyeing a spot on the Canadian team heading to the Tokyo Olympics

Bentley resting on a bench at Kal Park in Vernon not knowing there is a baby rattlesnake curled up below. Bentley jumped down and was bit by the snake. (Facebook)
Dog bit by baby rattler at popular Vernon park

The rattlesnake was hidden underneath a park bench when it struck out

Renderings of what the skating rink could look like beside City Hall between Martin and Main in downtown Penticton. (Activate Penticton image)
Outdoor skating rink back at Penticton council

City staff recommend going forward with rink which could host 2022 BCHL’s 60th year celebration

Longtime SOWINS volunteer Diane Fru (far left) walks with members of her family as they Walk To End Abuse Sunday, June 13, 2021. South Okanagan Women In Needs Society (SOWINS) raised a record amount this year. (Monique Tamminga Western News)
Walk to End Abuse in South Okanagan breaks fundraising record

More than $53,000 raised so far while the pandemic has increased need for SOWINS’ services

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau participates in a plenary session at the G7 Summit in Carbis Bay, England on Friday June 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada donating 13M surplus COVID-19 vaccine doses to poor countries

Trudeau says the government will pay for 87 million shots to be distributed to poor countries

Premier John Horgan speaks as provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry, right, and health minister Adrian Dix look on during a press conference to update on the province’s fall pandemic preparedness plan during a press conference from the press theatre at Legislature in Victoria, Wednesday, Sept. 9, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. officials to provide details on Step 2 of COVID reopening plan Monday

Step 2 could allow for larger gatherings and a resumption of recreational travel

Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller is seen during a news conference, Wednesday May 19, 2021 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Indigenous child-welfare battle heads to court despite calls for Ottawa to drop cases

Feds are poised to argue against two Canadian Human Rights Tribunal rulings

Two-year-old Ivy McLeod laughs while playing with Lucky the puppy outside their Chilliwack home on Thursday, June 10, 2021. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
VIDEO: B.C. family finds ‘perfect’ puppy with limb difference for 2-year-old Ivy

Ivy has special bond with Lucky the puppy who was also born with limb difference

A million-dollar ticket was sold to an individual in Vernon from the Lotto Max draw Friday, June 11, 2021. (Photo courtesy of BCLC)
Lottery ticket worth $1 million sold in Vernon

One lucky individual holds one of 20 tickets worth $1 million from Friday’s Lotto Max draw

A logging truck carries its load down the Elaho Valley near in Squamish, B.C. in this file photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chuck Stoody
Squamish Nation calls for old-growth logging moratorium in its territory

The nation says 44% of old-growth forests in its 6,900-square kilometre territory are protected while the rest remain at risk

Flowers and cards are left at a makeshift memorial at a monument outside the former Kamloops Indian Residential School to honour the 215 children whose remains are believed to have been discovered buried near the city in Kamloops, B.C., on Monday, May 31, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
‘Pick a Sunday:’ Indigenous leaders ask Catholics to stay home, push for apology

Indigenous leaders are calling on Catholics to stand in solidarity with residential school survivors by not attending church services

(Heather Lueck image)
Crash north of Enderby knocks out power, slows Highway 97A traffic

A witness captured footage of a medical helicopter landing at the scene

Most Read