Posted on 25 April 2012 by Keith Lacey
The board of directors for the Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen (RDOS) have passed an almost identical motion to that approved by Town of Osoyoos council two weeks ago asking that the provincial government resume talks with Parks Canada about establishing a national park in this region.
“It was actually a three-part motion,” said Osoyoos Mayor Stu Wells. “The RDOS board, like Osoyoos town council, has asked the provincial government to re-engage in dialogue about the national park, which passed near unanimously with only three board members voting against.
“The second part of the motion asked the province to release the 2010 feasibility study, which passed unanimously.
“And finally, the board wanted assurances the province will keep our board updated and informed about any progress or discussions relating to the park, which again passed with a strong majority.”
On April 2, Osoyoos town council passed a similar motion, which was sent to Minister of Environment Terry Lake and Minister of Jobs, Tourism and Innovation Pat Bell.
Osoyoos town council initiated this process by writing a request to both ministers asking the Town of Osoyoos be briefed on the results of the National Park Feasibility Study Report that was submitted to the province in December 2010 and the province share the results with the public.
The National Park Feasibility Study was done back in 2008 and completed in 2010, but to date, results have not been made public.
“It’s obvious this issue is not going away,” said Wells.
“Having access to these results is crucial for stakeholders in order to make an educated decision and deciding the next steps.”
Wells letter also referenced how the national park would provide significant economic, tourism and business benefits and job development opportunities to the region and towns throughout the South Okanagan.
It has become clear to him and many community leaders the only way this crucial issue is going to be decided once and for all is through a public referendum, said Wells.
“This issue isn’t going away, even though some members of the provincial government might believe it will and it’s clear to me the only democratic way to deal with such an important issue is through a referendum.
“There needs to be discussion about exactly who can vote, but eventually this has to be decided by the people who live here. The best way of solving an issue with this kind of importance in any democracy is through a referendum and that’s how this issue should be decided.”
The provincial government must also release the feasibility study as quickly as possible as taxpayer dollars were used to pay for the study and the tens of thousands of people who would be affected by the opening of a national park deserve to have access to that report, said Wells.
“There are a lot of accusations and false information being tossed around out there and releasing this study would go a long way towards answering a lot of serious questions,” he said.
Big money and a lot of time and effort was put into publishing this feasibility study and the government has no right to refuse releasing it, he said.
The four First Nations organizations that make up the Okanagan Nation Alliance are conducting their own feasibility study on the opening of a national park in the South Okanagan-Similkameen region and those results are expected by September or October.
In addition, the Okanagan Nations Alliance bands have been engaging their communities and seeking a common vision for a Syilx/Parks Canada protected area.
These bands have urged both the governments of Canada and B.C. to revisit their decision to discontinue talks related to the national park.
Wells said he remains convinced the majority of citizens in this town and region remain in favour of a national park.
“Now that all stakeholders are in agreement in requesting these results, hopefully they will be provided in a timely manner to our community for review.”