December 11, 2015 - 4:30 PM
PENTICTON - A local MLA is disbanding a national park focus group just weeks after it was formed.
Boundary-Similkmeen MLA Linda Larson says in a media release, "while there is a need to protect the natural landscape of the South Okanagan, the question of how that is done has been a divisive one.”
Larson says she has always wanted to bring people together to discuss how to move forward and ensure those divisions are bridged. She formed the focus group because she "wanted to find a way to ensure the voices of those who live and work here, who will be most impacted, had an opportunity to be heard.”
“As an MLA, that is my job, and one that I strive to do every day,” she says in the release.
Larson says the Environment Ministry’s recently completed consultation process, which is under review by the minister, is the way the consultation process should work. She says her five-person focus group had “become a distraction from the thoughtful and needed debate that must occur.”
As a result, the focus group was being disbanded immediately, she says.
“Apparently Linda’s finally figured out running a secret committee and then calling people who are concerned extremists and crazies is probably not a good way to bring a community together," NDP environment critic Spencer Chandra-Herbert says.
Chandra-Herbert says the national park has been a divisive issue in the community made worse by Larson’s "back door method" to try and kill the project - even after the premier admitted their was majority public support.
“That’s what it looked like to me. She couldn’t justify why she needed a so-called focus group to do the work the ministry was already doing,” he says.
Chandra-Herbert says Larson created the focus group by making a list of names and having the minister select the members of the group.
“Then the minister said that wasn’t true, and Linda had to say she selected them. Then in another interview she said they were randomly selected,” he says.
He says people were concerned a secret committee had been formed to kill the project.
"It’s so bizarre and so unneccessary. This has been an issue which has been debated for many years. You’d think (Larson) would be more sensitive to it,” Chandra-Herbert says.
Calls and emails to Linda Larson’s office have not been returned.
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News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2015