Councillor candidate Arlene Arlow answers:
1. What are your views with respect to village responsibilities regarding transient farmworkers and their needs?
The Village of Keremeos has no responsibility to provide anything to farm workers that it wouldn’t provide to another guest or resident. There is an obligation to promote safety and security so residents can freely go about their business and daily lives.
The reason behind establishing the farm worker campground was to offer seasonal farm workers a place to camp other than Pine Park or vacant lots within the village. I have been told that most farms in the valley provide facilities and a site for their seasonal workers. It is the ones that don’t provide for their seasonal workers that are causing the farm workers to camp wherever they can.
The farm worker campground issue is not going away. Regardless of whether we have an alternative site in place by next spring or not, there will be both farm workers and transients who will pitch their tent at the very spot they did this year. One local business manager went so far as to state that they did not want the campground at the same site it was this year. I fully understand their angst. We can take the signs down, we can refrain from putting out the porta-a-potties and dumpster. They will be back.
I propose lobbying the provincial government so that our “Employment Standards Act” puts more onus on farm employers, whether the farm worker be from Canada or from Mexico. That is one of many ways to bring the issues under control. I was not involved at all in the farm workers campground, but I will gladly serve on a committee for the seasonal worker issues.
2. What kind of industry (if any) would you work towards attacting to Keremeos?
I would work toward industries that embrace environmental responsibility. The province currently has a mandate to impose new recycling regulations on businesses in B.C. within 36 months. The proposed regulations will require businesses and manufacturers to accept responsibility for taking back packaging for the items they sell or produce.
This sounds wonderful, but the reality may be more difficult than first glance. If businesses are required to collect back the packaging, what are they to do with it once they get it? I would like to see a regional recycling facility built in or near Keremeos. It is one example of an industry that embraces the global movement toward environmental responsibility.
How would we get the money, you say? Well, if the province is going to impose recycling regulations on business, we can expect they will offer tax incentives, grants and or loans for the required infrastructure. The province knows that if they place too much of a burden on business, the businesses may well close. Businesses pay taxes. A healthy business environment in B.C. benefits residents and government.
3. Do you have any suggestions or initiatives you would like to pursue with respect to improving small business in Keremeos?
I would like to see continued growth in the small business sector in Keremeos. With an aging population, there is less need for “things” and more need for “services”.
Seniors still get their hair cut and lawns cut, but they don’t spend as much money on keeping up with the Joneses. I would like to see a study taken to identify the kinds of businesses that would prosper here in Keremeos. I would also like to see a “Buy Keremeos Day” each month, spearheaded by the local chamber. I would work toward those goals.
4. Do you have any original thoughts on tax reduction for Keremeos ratepapyers?
I don’t foresee a tax reduction for Keremeos. Our infrastructure constantly needs repair, our sewer system needs its final upgrade and village vehicles and equipment wear out. There are provincial government funds available to partly fund large capital projects, but the residents of Keremeos will continue to pay a share of all infrastructure.
There are funds earmarked for specific projects and equipment. Prior councils had the foresight to not borrow more money than could be paid back.
Expanding the village boundaries would allow a diversification of industry to feed our tax base. Expansion cannot occur before our water and sewer systems are finished being upgraded. Keremeos is in good shape fiscally, but the buck doesn’t stop there.