Penticton News

Topics from the 2016 Union of British Columbia Municipalities (UBCM) convention

Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen board of directors.
Image Credit: Contributed/Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen

PENTICTON - The Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen (RDOS) Directors and Bill Newell, Chief Administrative Officer (CAO), have been attending the 2016 Union of British Columbia Municipalities (UBCM) convention this week.  UBCM is the venue each year where local government elected officials, are provided the opportunity to meet with Provincial Ministries regarding local issues.

The RDOS had several issues up for discussion with Ministers and Senior Staff.

Minister of Education:  The Regional District expressed our concern about the process used over the last year for the potential closing of 4 schools in our geographic area.  While we understand and respect the role of the School Board, the Regional District believes that schools also have an economic and social sustainability factor that should require that the local government be included in the discussion.  The Minister advises that the Province is working diligently to improve the process prior to the end of the two-year reprieve for West Bench, Trout Creek and Osoyoos schools that had been identified for closure in 2016 and that our suggestions would be taken into consideration.

Solicitor General: The Regional District had, in previous years, expressed concern about the need for additional rural policing.  The RDOS falls under the provincial policing contract and the province has not increased resources for several years.  The RDOS is allotted 8 Officers for the 8 electoral areas in the South Okanagan/ Similkameen.  With the growth in the area, the new corrections facility and additional administrative duties for RCMP Officers, there seems a reduction in front-line service to our citizens.  The RDOS made this case again to the Solicitor General, Corrections and Senior provincial policing administrators.  The Solicitor General advised that they will be watching the effect of the Gallagher Lake Corrections Facility closely and will identify other options to address policing concerns.

Minister of Aboriginal Relations:  Local Governments are experiencing increased pressure to consult with Indian Bands on development and other land use applications on private or community lands.  The Indian Bands have advised that they need additional resources to handle the referrals from all levels of government and they have suggested that local governments should collect additional fees from applicants to cover the First Nation referrals staff.  Local Governments are reluctant to increase fees, for obvious reasons. 

The Regional District was, more or less, asking the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs to consider establishing a provincial position on First Nation Referrals to gain consistency across the province and provide support for local government in negotiating any agreements that may be required.

Minister of Health: The Regional District had the opportunity to meet with the Minister of Health to discuss four issues of interest in the South Okanagan Similkameen:

  • Youth Mental Health – There seems to be a gap in programming for adolescent children requiring the support of mental health professionals.  In fact, schools have reported that they only receive support after a suicide has been attempted.  The Regional District has asked the Minister to investigate to ensure holistic coverage for all British Columbians, regardless of age.
  • Planning for an Ageing Population – The Regional District believes that the Province needs to start preparing a holistic provincial strategy for the increasingly aged population in the Okanagan/Similkameen.  Not only health care, but transit, recreation, healthy living, etc. 
  • Sage Mesa Water System – IHA is an important partner in the regulation of water quality.  The Sage Mesa Water System is privately held, but was seized by the Province due to poor management.  The Province has contracted with the Regional District to manage and operate the service on their behalf.  IHA has an Order against the owner of the system due to a rapidly deteriorating infrastructure causing continuous “boil water notices” in times of turbidity due to lack of significant contact time for the chlorine injection at the start of their system.  But, IHA seems reluctant to pull the trigger on the enforcement and the problem only continues to exacerbate.
  • High Risk Hazard Field Support Guide – The Province has recently changed their policy on the role of Ambulance First Responders at accident sites.  Typically Fire, Ambulance and Police respond to accidents in the field and they work well together if we leave them alone.  Due to recent Worker’s Compensation Board findings against the Ambulance Service, a policy was established restricting assistance at traffic sites.  The Minister advises this may have been an over-reaction, a review is underway and the outcome should be out soon.

The RDOS works hard to maintain a responsive and transparent organization.  Communicating effectively with the citizens of the RDOS is important to us – let us know how we are doing.

For further information, please contact, Christy Malden at (250) 492-0237 or

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