1. What are your views with respect to village and responsibilities regarding transient farm workers and their needs?
As I stated at the All Candidates Forum, village taxpayers should not be responsible for any costs in providing a solution to this issue. I have heard all the complaints;
“We want public washrooms.” Both Pine Park and Memorial Park have those facilities, but unfortunately they are often vandalized.
“We need a laundromat.” This is a private sector endeavor which has had its ups and downs over the years, but the village is certainly not in the business of washing dirty laundry.
“We need somewhere to shower in town.” Oh please!! When I travel out of town I either stay at friends or get a hotel/motel room. Keremeos has plenty of fine establishments that meet this need. Obviously, a farm workers budget cannot support that lifestyle for long (neither can mine!), but it seems to me that they all want something for nothing, expecting local taxpayers to pay for it.
There are tractor trailer units available which accommodate a half dozen or so showers and private change booths. They can be placed anywhere and can be solar powered. For a small fee farm workers at a campground can have amenities. Portable toilets are already in place and more are available. I believe the onus lies upon the orchardists, the regional district and the fruit industry in general to provide for the farm workers needs. Weeding out the “non workers” and other undesirables who take advantage of what is provided is again a whole new problem that has cropped up, and this will be the biggest hurdle to overcome before we see a workable solution to the whole issue.
2. What kind of industry (if any) would you like to work towards attracting to Keremeos?
In previous Official Community Plan meetings I have participated in, the people of Keremeos indicated that they wanted “clean” industry; no industrial noise, no smokestacks, no crematoriums, no pollution period.
Therefore we have to work with what we have. We have an abundance of farms, orchards, and vineyards throughout the valley. Wine tours and Agritourism are a growing sector of the local economy. I believe a fruit/vegetable processing plant could be a viable enterprise in our valley. Whether it is situated in Keremeos or outside the boundary matters not, it would provide local jobs and an outlet for cull produce that would otherwise be wasted.
3. Do you have any suggestions or initiatives you would like to pursue with respect to improving small business in Keremeos?
First off, nobody can tell a business owner how to run their own business. Entrepreneurs have come to Keremeos and either bought an existing establishment or have started up their own venture according to what they envision would succeed. I congratulate all people who have invested in the commercial sector of our town. Under the Charter, the village is limited as to what it can do as far as tax breaks and incentives it can provide to any business.
You run the risk of creating an uneven playing field when you favor one type of business, old or new, over another. If business is given tax-breaks then the residential taxpayer has to make up the difference. It is this balancing act council has to deal with annually at budget time.
I encourage all business ventures in town and in the valley to join the Similkameen Country Development Association. Under this umbrella, regional, provincial and even federal funding is accessible to promote and assist them. The residents of Keremeos and the valley also have a responsibility in supporting local business and that is to Shop Local.
4. Do you have any original thoughts on tax reduction for
Many new residents of Keremeos have come from “big cities”. I understand that they want all the amenities previously provided, but desire a “rural” lifestyle. Many old time “rural” Keremeos residents are beginning to desire more amenities as they age. We can have anything we want as long as we are prepared to pay for it.
Local government has certain fixed costs, and to propose a tax-break for one sector will negatively impact another, who will ultimately have to pick up the balance. Fact is, regardless of where you live, taxes will never go down unless you reduce the level of government or the services provided. I feel the best option in reducing the size of government would be to form a District Municipality along with areas “B” and “G”. This idea would take years to develop, and would require participation and co-operation from all groups. We all have many common interests; issues inside and outside our “boundaries” need to be dealt with by looking at the big picture. By working together we can all have a part in ensuring a prosperous lifestyle in the future for the Similkameen valley.