Penticton MLA Dan Ashton and Boundary Similkameen MLA Linda Larson met with regional district directors on December 19 to discuss issues of local importance. The two provincial members discussed a number of concerns in the area having provincial responsibilities.
Several of the items were also issues touching the Lower Similkameen. The MLAs discussed illegal camping enforcement, with Ashton telling the board that it was more of a federal issue, adding there was no provincial money with which to attack the problem. It was noted that the Oliver area was experiencing less of a problem with transients and illegal camping over the past season, with Oliver Mayor Ron Hovanes attributing it to the town’s relationship with local authorities.Keremeos Mayor Manfred Bauer was curious to know what legislation was used to evict illegal campers; Mayor Hovanes replied the town had posted notices in the affected areas, which were in the municipality and could therefore be enforced through bylaws. Keremeos does not have that option, as most of the illegal camping takes place outside village jurisdiction.
Linda Larson assured board directors that Grist Mill funding was available for 2014, for sure.
She said the Heritage Branch was working with current manager Chris Mathieson to explore opportunities to expand the operation, noting the mill site contained a large amount of property that was currently underutilized.
She told the board there was no ministry movement afoot at this time to “push the property on the Regional District Okanagan Similkameen (RDOS) at this time,” adding although the RDOS did receive a letter indicating that intent, they shouldn’t “get excited about it.”
“We’re going to give the operation a chance,” she said.
The Agricultural Land Commission is not going anywhere soon, was the message the two MLAs had for the farmland protection agency. Larson said, if anything the province would be fighting even harder to protect land here in the Okanagan – Similkameen, adding, “I like to eat.” She further assured the board that the ALC was not facing funding cuts , and in fact, four million more dollars has been budgeted for the ALC over the next three years.
Cawston Director George Bush thanked the MLA’s for not supporting a national park in the area, telling the MLAs that his opposition to a national park stemmed from the prospect of thousands of acres of lost farmland in the South Okanagan and Similkameen, as well as the ensuing diminishment of the local ranching industry.
Ashton reiterated his stance on the park issue. He said if the federal government wished to continue discussions on a national park, all stakeholders would first have to be grandfathered their use of the land in perpetuity first.
Larson noticed all paperwork coming into her office relating to the national park contained the same arguments and the same select people over and over again.
“There has been nothing with the federal park people’s signatures, saying, ‘We will do this.’” Larson added the province will work to place more of the area under protection, then turn it over to tourism.
BC Hydro rate increases and a lack of response from the BC Utilities Commission over Fortis’ two tiered conservation rate was discussed, with Ashton stating that Fortis’ report contained the “lacklustre finding” the rate wouldn’t affect that many people.
Area “G” Director Wood noted the rate was hurting renters living in homes with tin walls and no alternative to electric heat.
“We need to help them,” she said. Ashton agreed that the biggest issue was lack of an alternative fuel source, adding Fortis did not support the initiative, which was imposed upon them by BCUC.