Regional board continues to wrestle with economic development idea

A continuing discussion over whether the regional district should adopt a new economic development service bylaw continued at a regional district committee meeting on Thursday.
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PENTICTON - A question of transparency in how the Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen hands out grants for economic development appears to have inspired directors to consider adding more money on it.  

It started with a simple concept at a committee meeting in February. Instead of giving the Okanagan Film Commission a grant-in-aid every year (last year, it got $34,000), West Bench Director Michael Brydon suggested it would be more transparent to call it what it is — an economic development budget. But that call for transparency opened the door to a question of further economic development, which the board cut in 2003.

At last week’s meeting, Chief Administrative Officer Bill Newell said the previous economic development bylaw allowed the board a maximum $100,000 to draw on, as an example of possible funding.

Oliver Director Ron Hovanes made it clear he wants that open door slammed shut again calling it 'a $100,000 slush fund' that directors or managers could play with.

“I really hesitate to take public trust dollars and say ‘we’re just going to throw $100,000 for regional economic development, and hopefully we’ll find some ideas down the road on how we can spend it.’ That’s kind of what I see here,” he said.

Brydon reiterated his concerns.

“The simple fact is this board is doing economic development with everyone participating for the film commission, the Olympics — and those amounts are hidden away in a 526-page budget, so no one can find them,” he said.

Directors can dig deeper into how the service is provided if it’s a budget item, not a grant-in-aid.

This discussion will continue at the June 18 meeting.

To contact the reporter for this story, email Steve Arstad at or call 250-488-3065. To contact the editor, email or call 250-718-2724.

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