Editor’s Note: Updated to include Council decision not to support request federal government hold referendum on national park reserve.
Town of Osoyoos Council will not join its Town of Oliver counterpart in supporting a request for the federal government and Parks Canada to hold a referendum on a proposed local national park reserve.
After limited discussion at its regular meeting Monday afternoon, Council voted unanimously to turn down a request from Boundary-Similkameen MLA Linda Larson asking the Town of Osoyoos to join its Oliver cousin in calling for a referendum on a proposed local national park reserve.
“After some sober second thought and kind of looking at it and thinking about it, I don’t understand how a referendum could be held in our community when it’s a federal matter,” said Coun. CJ Rhodes. “I’m a little reluctant to support it based on the information we have right now.”
His views were supported by Coun. Jim King.
“This issue has come in front of Council before,” he added. “The previous council supported the national park so I don’t see using staff’s time to submit a letter.”
Similarly, Coun. Myers Bennett and Coun. Brian Harvey also spoke against the request. As did Mayor Sun McKortoff.
“For the last three councils that I’ve been on we have actively supported the national park,” she said.
In her letter, Ms. Larson notes Town of Oliver Council on Feb. 25 made a similar request for the referendum. She added the issue appears to be important among constituents.
“My office has been deluged with phone calls and emails and I have been approached by many constituents asking for a referendum,” she writes. “A recent poll of residents in Oliver, Osoyoos, Keremeos and Cawston released in January showed 76 per cent of people are in support of a referendum on the issue.”
The poll was commissioned by the South Okanagan Similkameen Preservation Society (SOSPS) and conducted in December 2018.
Ms. Larson appears on the home page of the SOSPS website, and states her objection to the park:
“I do not now, nor have I ever believed that Parks Canada is the best choice to protect and preserve our grasslands. I believe the Province of BC and the many other organizations, like the BCWF, BCCA and the Nature Trust of BC have protected and continue to protect the environmentally sensitive lands and wildlife of the South Okanagan.”
Other polling, however, suggests a majority of residents support the development of a national park reserve.