We are responding to the Penticton Chamber of Commerce’s opposition to the motion, made by the South Okanagan and Kelowna chambers, asking the province to re-engage in national park reserve discussions.
Experience shows the national park reserve will provide significant economic, job development and tourism benefits to the region — surely this goal is aligned with the chamber and its members.
We believe that the Penticton chamber should be advocating for all their members, not just one. Across Canada, solutions are found to ensure that viable businesses, like HNZ, are not harmed when a national park is established. The choice is not between a national park and helicopter training — you can have both.
There are hundreds of businesses across Canada that operate within national parks, e.g. ranches in grasslands, the mine adjacent to Nahanni, and ski hills in Banff. These businesses have legal agreements that guarantee their operations within those parks.
The director general of Parks Canada formally told HNZ, in writing on May 26, 2006, that they “will accommodate the flight training school activities as it currently operates.” To the detriment of businesses and communities in the region, HNZ has chosen to not share this letter with the public and continues to provide incorrect information, as they have to your chamber.
HNZ says that they currently have the business security to build a new $5 million facility and are anxious about losing that security.
In reality, less than 10 per cent of HNZ’s helicopter landings occur in the national park concept area. Currently these landing sites are secured with a 10-year renewable provincial park use permit.
On Feb. 27 2008, the director general confirmed that Parks Canada “would issue a permit to Canadian Helicopters (HNZ)”. HNZ was also encouraged in this letter to share this information with “chambers of commerce and others,” which clearly they have not done.
Our hope is that the chamber will ask HNZ to provide the correspondence from Parks Canada and research how existing businesses get security when a park is established. Upon reviewing this information, we expect the chamber will change their position and work with other chambers, the regional district, ONA and TOTA who are formally requesting that the province re-engage in the park discussions and where permits for HNZ can be developed.
By being solutions-oriented, the Penticton chamber can bring immense economic benefits, significant job development and community certainty to all their members and businesses region-wide.
Doreen Olson, co-ordinator
South Okanagan Similkameen National Park Network