MLA avoiding facts
I met with MLA Linda Larson on Oct. 15 to discuss the national park and tourism. She said without hesitation that she wasn’t prepared to trade ranchers for tourists. I was somewhat exasperated by this statement as Mrs. Larson seems to be in conflict with one of the B.C. Liberal’s party platforms to create jobs and economic growth.
Isn’t it about time the B.C. Liberal government recognizes that there is enough local support for the South Okanagan Similkameen national park, given by what has been demonstrated by numerous groups and organizations located in the very heart of the proposed park including Oliver Tourism Association, Destination Osoyoos, Tourism Penticton, Okanagan Basin Water Board, the Chamber of Commerce for South Okanagan, Okanagan Nation Alliance, MP Alex Atamanenko, MLA Dan Ashton, Mayor Stu Wells, BC Wine Institute, etc.
Local people want this park. The only scientific poll carried out to date indicates about two-thirds of the people in the South Okanagan and Similkameen are in favour of the park, while only a quarter oppose it. In my personal experience, many opponents to the park plan are very misinformed about the size, placement and management of the proposed park, and are actually objecting to situations that were rectified through consultation years ago.
Local businesses want this park. Tourism-based businesses would benefit directly from the extended visitor stays the park would promote. The Thompson-Okanagan Tourism Association has incorporated the park concept into their 10-year plan.
Finally, I would be surprised if Mrs. Larson has been briefed about the economic benefits a national park brings. According to a 2010 report by the Outspan Group, the average national park in B.C. on an annual basis increases provincial GDP by $37 million, labour revenue by $25 million, tax revenue by $3.5 million, spending by $49 million, develops 20-25 new permanent park related jobs and 570 new full time jobs related to the establishment of the national park.
What kind of jobs does ranching create for the South Okanagan/Similkameen?
Council ignoring residents
Once again the Municipal Council of Summerland is trying one of their tricks on its citizens. A few years ago, around the Christmas season, it introduced legislation to expand the boundaries of Summerland to accommodate a golf course/community development in the area west of the town. Mayor Perrino should remember, she was part of council at the time. The only way to defeat that idea was to gather enough signatures on a reverse petition which required at least 10 per cent of the voters — a difficult proposition considering nearly half of Summerland was down south somewhere.
Council, now is proposing taking out over 200 acres of land out of the ALR, near the core of the town, for future development. This is viable farmland and greenhouses or orchards, or what could be orchards if it wasn’t land on which people were sitting in hopes of making a bundle from subdivision.
Council’s proposal is again taking place over the holidays. Council has already been told in no uncertain term to keep their hands off ALR land.
Mayor Perrino wants to exchange 200 acres of viable farm land, where orchardists and others have spent years cultivating and planting trees, putting in irrigation lines, building fences to keep out deer, adding mulch and peat by the truckloads and putting in countless hours of labour in exchange for 250 acres of raw land west of town at a higher elevation; frost prone; requiring thousands of hours of labour; tens of thousands dollars of capital input clearing pine trees, shrubs and stone to put it into production.
Who benefits? Two council members who own some of the land, developers, realtors, a few business owners, and, of course, the town’s tax base will grow. It has, however, been proven time and again that this type of growth only increases the taxes of every property owner in the community.