During Sarah Boyles address about the National Park Reserve (NPR) to Oliver Town Council (1:12 mark in video) on February 11th, she let a nugget of information loose that perhaps residents of the South Okanagan Similkameen would like to take a moment to consider with more scrutiny. Ms. Boyle stated that Parks Canada had received just over a 1000 feedback results for their online consultation. Consider the math of this: for the population of Oliver, Osoyoos, Rural Oliver, Keromeos and Cawston, the community is approximately 19500 people. This is a 5% return of local residents to population that are actively submitting their wish list to Parks Canada for the development of the Park. When you add to this breakdown that this consultation is open to anyone in Canada, it’s easy to presume that some or half of the consultation submissions come from out of area returns. (We have no way of knowing what the actual results are – or will be – because Parks Canada have not approved a request for a bonded 3rd party to review the results, citing privacy concerns.) So bad are the returns, and desperate for completed consultations, Vancouver based environmental groups have taken to giving out free wine in exchange for the recipients to complete the Parks Canada forms.
Nearing the end of the NPR consultation period at the end of February, it’s likely that the establishment of the park may proceed with 1 – 5 % of the local population that have engaged in the discussion. This will be presented to a steering committee that contains no local residents input, no elected local representative, operated by a Federal organization based in Quebec. Contrast the previous numbers with the South Okanagan Similkameen Preservation Society (SOSPS) Dec 2018 Poll which empirically states that 59% think the Government has done a poor job of local consultation, and 76% of respondents who want a local referendum at the next Federal election.
When you do the math, it adds up to this: Locals don’t have enough faith in Parks Canada to answer their skewed consultation process. It’s a very bad beginning with a new neighbour in a rural community. Locals the SOSPS talk to say Parks Canada has no respect for what residents want to say. Given the results of cancelled meetings on Feb 12/13, Parks Canada will also impede meetings with the public if it does not work to their favour.
Locals are being dictated to by Parks Canada, who is limiting the debate, controlling the sharing of information and the means to have any dialogue. Is this what’s done when a National Park Reserve is such a good idea?
Board of Directors
South Okanagan Similkameen Preseration Society
Letter from Marion Boyd to Oliver Chronicle with a copy to Jack Bennest
Why would you do an editorial calling for a referendum in the same paper where you report that our elected Council decided not to pursue such a thing? Why would you not publish one word that Ian Hunt said in his presentation to Council that persuaded the Council to make their decision? Why would you publish Sarah Boyle’s presentation to Council and intersperse it with one negative interpretation after another and not one positive comment.
Without Richard McGuire’s investigative reporting we have no credible source of information in the South Okanagan to help us make evidence based decisions. Jack Bennest’s personal blog, Oliver Daily News, has never reported one thing from the 5 years of informative public meetings to discuss Park issues. The Oliver Chronicle appears clearly anti-Park and today suddenly the Osoyoos Times (owned by the same company as the Chronicle) is following that lead despite the fact the Mayor of Osoyoos is vocal about her support of the Park proposal and is positioning Osoyoos to get the economic benefits of a Park. Oliver seems to be determined to retain its status as the little prison town north of Osoyoos. We need to do better.
Our town is plastered with ‘No Park’ signs recently. Don’t you wonder why there is such strong support for the Park here yet there are hardly any Yes signs? I can tell you my own experience. I was vandalized twice when I put up Yes signs. Those of us who have taken the time to keep informed over the past 5 years recognize that the time of ‘yes’ and ‘no’ is past and we need to concern ourselves with the ‘how’ of the Park before the Chinese interests that are quietly buying up huge acreage here leave us nothing to discuss.
My friend, John Dick, MSc, worked as a habitat management coordinator in the 1970s that successfully turned the “Haynes Lease” at Osoyoos into an EcoReserve. John’s career has taken him around the world with World Bank projects. I asked him his opinion of the present situation in the South Okanagan. His response: “The whole public debate has been a repeat of what occurred in the creation of Grasslands National Park in Saskatchewan – incredibly negative reactions in the beginning and now recognition that the Park has had huge benefits to the ranching community because it’s allowed the introduction of a rest-rotation grazing system that has greatly improved range condition and productivity. Tourism associated with the Park is a significant economic driver in the area. The proposed Nation Park Reserve in the South Okanagan is too important to be scuttled by a few narrow ranching and back country recreation interests.”
A couple of comments – Sarah Boyle did say all submissions will be marked with a postal code. So to be fair – we should get a list/a breakdown of persons commenting from around our area, the province and Canada.
To Marion – I am deeply hurt that you think so little of lil ole ODN – the “personal blog” that has supported your charity and the arts community for almost ten years. Oliver Daily News is a respected news website and source of more SO news than printed sources. It uses the pictures of many, the reviews and stories of many others, hires a professional reporter to assist in the production of quality news coverage. It is respected by other news outlets in the SO which use pictures and tips to develop stories of their own.
To Marion – To say that ODN has not covered the National Park story in the last five year is an absolute misstatement.
To say the Osoyoos Times did investigative reporting belies the fact that the content of such stories were fed by insiders and always appeared slanted in my mind. If the stories had been slanted to the NO side I wonder what you would say to that.
To the question of the signs – no one likes them. Yes or No. But a referendum – something that richly honours our tradition of openness would surely get rid of them. Do not you think?