Letter: Read the paper, look at the science

This incredible opportunity is ready and waiting—a new national park reserve in the South Okanagan-Similkameen, writes Steve Hollett.

“Jobs and the Economy”—we hear this mantra constantly from our federal and provincial governments.

In B.C., progress towards these goals is being made, but the big-ticket resource projects take time to develop. But what would you say if there was a widely supported proposal ready to go in Southern B.C. that would potentially create over 700 jobs, $50 million in GDP, $35 million in labour income, and $4 million in tax revenues, annually? (“The Economic Impact of Parks Canada”, A National Study by the Outpsan Group INC, 2011.)

What if it would increase tourism, support business growth, encourage investment, bring new facilities to the South Okanagan and Boundary regions, and increase passengers through our airports?

What about a proposal that would protect one of Canada’s most unique landscape and many of its endangered species, while all the while accommodating existing land uses?

This incredible opportunity is ready and waiting—a new national park reserve in the South Okanagan-Similkameen. It would cost the province next to nothing as all the costs to establish and manage it would be the responsibility of the Government of Canada, who is eager to move forward.

Moreover, the provincial government has neither the resources nor the budget to come anywhere near matching Parks Canada in achieving these potential benefits.

The results of a recent scientific public poll conducted by McAllister Opinion Research show a strong majority of wide public support for the national park reserve, and the support is continuing to grow:

• Support for the national park is 3:1 in the Regional District of South Okanagan-Similkameen, up from 2:1 in 2010.

• Support in MLA Larson’s Boundary-Similkameen Riding is 2:1.

• Support in MLA Ashton’s Penticton Riding is 4:1.

• Opposition has decreased to 21 per cent.

• 89 per cent believe that protecting endangered species should be a high priority.

• And, interestingly enough, the highest proportion of support comes from families who cited ranching/farming, hunting and ATV riding as their prime activities.

Regional districts, Chambers of Commerce (including the B.C. Chamber of Commerce), tourism associations, municipal councils (including Grand Forks, Greenwood and Midway), the B.C. Wine Institute, the Union of British Columbia Municipalities and First Nations (the Okanagan Nation Alliance), have all voiced their strong support for the provincial government to re-engage negotiations with the federal government.

The provincial government has responded appropriately by issuing its public Intentions Paper on a proposed land use framework including a national park reserve. I urge you not to rely on old-school folk tales…but to read the paper, to look at the science, to look at the potential economic benefits, to look at the accommodation of existing land uses, and to draw your own informed conclusions as to whether we should re-engage with the federal government.

If we don’t like what they have to say, we can always walk away.

– Steve Hollett,

Former Assistant Deputy Minister of Finance and Federal-Provincial Negotiator, Greenwood