By ROY WOOD
Oliver council is likely to approve a proposal on Monday to urge the federal government to hold a regional referendum on establishing a national park reserve in the South Okanagan.
At a meeting two weeks ago, a motion to write a letter to Ottawa asking for a referendum was defeated on a tie vote. Mayor Martin Johansen and Councillor Aimee Grice were in favour, while Councillors Larry Schwartzenberger and Petra Veintimilla were opposed.
Councillor Dave Mattes was absent from the meeting and represents the tie-breaking vote. He will return Monday.
In an interview with ODN today, Mattes said he will listen to the discussion at the meeting before making a decision on how to vote.
However, he said that while he thinks council should remain neutral on the overall national park issue, he supports the notion that local residents should be entitled to have their voices heard. “That might give you a hint how I’m leaning,” he said.
Mattes is on record as being personally opposed to the national park, mainly because of concerns about the stress on local resources from the additional visitors to the area.
Johansen has invoked a section of the Community Charter — the provincial legislation outlining how municipal governments operate – to bring the motion back for reconsideration.
The mayor said in an interview with ODN that he is re-opening the matter because he thinks all members of council should have a chance to vote on it. He said he hasn’t spoken with Mattes about how he might be leaning.
The resolution reads: “That Council direct staff to prepare a letter requesting the Federal Government to undertake a referendum in the South Okanagan-Similkameen area on the creation of the National Park Reserve.”
Mattes also said today he believes it’s possible that the councillors who voted against the referendum idea may have a change of heart on Monday.
According to local media reports, Schwartzenberger said at the Feb. 11 meeting he believes council should simply stay out of the national park debate. Veintimilla said she is opposed to a referendum at least until more details are known about the proposed park.