Decision based on political expediency

No political appetite to challenge payment for participation in Similkameen Watershed Study

The regional district board recently approved a recommendation to pay the Lower Similkameen Indian Band up to $43,755.

The money is being provided to the band in order to “provide consultative services and share unique cultural and ecological data for the Similkameen River Watershed Plan.”

The decision came on the heels of a proposal made to the board by the LSIB on June 6.

The proposal basically outlined the conditions upon which the LSIB would agree to participate in the watershed study – conditions that came with the above mentioned  price tag attached.

The problem is, the Lower Similkameen Indian Band is also one of the Similkameen Valley Planning Society’s seven governing bodies.

The SVPS, is in effect paying one of their own members to take part.

At a July 19 meeting of the SVPS, it was decided, unanimously, that “participation of the LSIB is vital to the development of a water plan for the Similkameen Valley and will also set the foundation for future partnerships between our governments.”

That could very well be true – and that makes us uncomfortable.

RDOS Public Works Manager Doug French raised several salient points about the LSIB request.

Specifically, French noted the following:

– the LSIB proposal identifies a fee for engagement in the study that amounts to nine per cent of the total $500,000 grant.

– payment to (one of) the SVPS governing bodies was not anticipated in the Gas Tax application and would impact the project.

“Diverting nine per cent of the project budget for First Nation relations will reduce the amount available for the technical study and may set the precedent for future projects,” French noted in his report to the board.

French further noted that gas tax funding guidelines are such that “it seems the spirit of the grant is that we not pay partners for participation.”

The SVPS has consistently invited members of the LSIB to the table over the Phase one development stage of the Similkameen Watershed Study, to varying degrees of participation.

The board’s decision to pay up to $43,755 is based on expediency and a twisted sense of political correctness.

It may entice participation in this particular study – or it may not, but one thing seems certain to us – a precedent has been set that will likely make future negotiations even more difficult.

In the meantime, the effectiveness of this particular study will likely be affected Decby the loss of nearly 10 per cent of the granted funds.