Central Okanagan West director wants to incorporate | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

Current Conditions


Kelowna News

Central Okanagan West director wants to incorporate

Image Credit: FILE PHOTO
November 13, 2018 - 5:30 PM

KELOWNA - Residents of the Central Okanagan West electoral area are still frustrated with what they consider unfair treatment by a regional district that is heavily dominated by the City of Kelowna.

Wayne Carson ran unsuccessfully for a seat on Kelowna city council during September's municipal election, but he did get re-elected as a regional district director for Central Okanagan West.

With a new mandate, he’s going to be lobbying the province to fund a governance study to determine the costs of incorporating the rural area on the west side of Okanagan Lake. But this time, it may come with a bit of a twist by including the rural areas on the east side of the lake, that include Ellison and Joe Rich.

“An Electoral Area Municipality would solve all the concerns we have,” Carson told iNFOnews.ca. Those concerns are what he terms the “tyranny of the majority” on the Regional District of the Central Okanagan board of directors.

The board once served the municipalities of Kelowna and Peachland along with the heavily populated but unincorporated areas of what are now West Kelowna and Lake Country.

There are 13 people sitting on the board, most appointed by their municipal governments. There are seven from Kelowna, two from West Kelowna and one each from Lake Country and Peachland.

Only two are elected directly to the board, Carson and Mark Bartyik, who was acclaimed in Okanagan East. Those two represent about 4,000 voters each, or about four per cent of the 195,000 people living in the Central Okanagan.

Except that’s not entirely accurate since the electoral area Carson represents also includes non-native people living on Westbank First Nations land. He estimates that’s about 6,900 people who can vote for (or against) him but don’t pay any taxes to the regional district. They pay taxes to the First Nation, but they can’t vote for chief and council.

The imbalance is what got Carson into regional district politics instead of continuing as the North Westside Fire Rescue Department’s chief. Frustrated with efforts to amalgamate the four fire departments on the westside, he said he left that position and was elected to the regional district in 2014.

He joined the eastern director Patty Hanson. She had a lot of conflict with the board and stopped attending meetings. Bartyik filled in for her.

“She had been broken and I blame the board for that,” Carson said. “She was not treated fairly or treated right and I don’t think I was treated fairly or treated right.”

He went so far as to suggest the board was guilty of bullying. One example he points to was a dispute over water rates.

The regional district operates six water utilities, three on each side of the lake. In 2015, shortly after being elected, Carson was told those utilities were all losing money so rates had to go up.

“I told the board I would not support any rate increases on any of the regional district water systems until I had financial accountability on the losses, and some kind of an operational plan that would move us forward without these losses and without coming back and nailing the rates every single time,” he said.

In response, the board hired a lawyer who reported back that the water utilities were specific to each regional district area so he could only vote on the utilities in his area. Since the board does not allow such issues to be decided by a single director, both electoral areas lost their authority over their water systems that are now subject to a vote by the entire board.

Back in 2016, Carson lobbied the provincial government to conduct a governance study of what he calls the North Westshore to determine the costs of incorporation.

He claims the minister responsible agreed to have the study go ahead but, before that could start, there was a provincial election, a new government and the governance study was changed to a review of services. He balked at that because no outside consultant was going to be hired. So, the issue faded away as he headed into the recent municipal election.

Now that he has a clear mandate from his constituency he plans on getting that effort back on track. In the meantime, he’s done extensive research on other communities where incorporation efforts have failed.

“They all failed for one reason - you can’t afford the roads," Carson said. “Roads are downloaded to you immediately (after incorporation). That’s a huge cost.”

Westside Road and the road down into Fintry Provincial Park would remain provincial roads so the proposed new municipality would have 32 kilometres of roads to look after, five kilometres of which are gravel. Using a high price per kilometre calculation, he estimated that it would cost residents just under $100 a year to take over those roads.

“Most people pay more than $100 just clearing their driveways each year,” he said. An added bonus would be having the roads plowed locally, which he’s been told could be done in half a day, versus having to wait two or three days to have plows come in from outside the proposed municipality.

But the big reason people want to incorporate is to get a school in the community, he said. Students are currently spending as least a couple of hours a day being bussed either to West Kelowna or Vernon.

As a municipality, he believes, they would carry greater weight with the province and school board in lobbying for a school, or do it themselves.

“If we were to become self-governing, rather than invest in sidewalks or swimming pools, we would build a school,” he said. “That school would be our school and it would be on our property. The province could not come in and shut it down.”

It could even start as a private school, as was done by Sun Peaks for one year before the government realized it was cheaper to send teachers to their already established building, Carson said.

But rather than just look at North Westshore in isolation, Carson is leaning toward the precedent set by the Northern Rockies Regional Municipality. In that case, the entire regional district surrounding Fort Nelson incorporated.

His counterpart on the east side is not so keen on the idea.

“It’s something that could be looked at down the road,” Bartyik said. “I think we should start with an electoral areas committee.”

Most other regional districts have such committees to review procedures and discuss issues that effect rural areas. Carson also suggested such a committee be formed here.

And if the incorporation idea is floated for both sides of the lake, roads would be a much bigger issue since there are many more to service in the eastern region, Bartyik said.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Rob Munro or call 250-808-0143 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

We welcome your comments and opinions on our stories but play nice. We won't censor or delete comments unless they contain off-topic statements or links, unnecessary vulgarity, false facts, spam or obviously fake profiles. If you have any concerns about what you see in comments, email the editor in the link above. 

News from © iNFOnews, 2018

  • Popular penticton News
View Site in: Desktop | Mobile