By Mike Campol
Town of Osoyoos Councillor


As I gathered my thoughts to write this piece, I was aware of the potential blow back that I’m likely to receive — “You are just complaining because you were unprepared to deal with this.” “You’re pitting communities against each other.” etc . . .

Still, I feel as an Osoyoos Councillor that I must say something about the latest download to our quaint municipality from the provincial government: a potential massive increase in policing costs.

It certainly appears to be the case that the provincial government was caught off guard and ill-prepared to deal with Osoyoos in a timely matter.

Perhaps that’s understandable. Our secondary school was all but closed last year as enrolment declined and the school district forecast further decline in the coming years. Development permits were not seeing a significant increase. And aside from visitor growth, there really was no reason to think we would surpass the 5,000 mark that necessitates additional local commitment to policing costs.

But I also wonder if the provincial government isn’t unintentionally picking winners and losers in rural BC.  It would appear so and here is where I expect that I’ll take some heat.

In a Town that hovers around the 5,000 population mark, a one-precent tax increase results in less than $25,000 in tax revenue. I won’t get into all of the math right now but if Osoyoos is going to incur 70% of policing costs while maintaining a contingency for possible circumstance within policing, there is more than likely going to be a very significant increase in costs to our residents — and that could mean a significant increase in local taxes as well.

Let’s now look at some facts.

  • We almost lost our only secondary school and we have no guarantee that this won’t re occur in the foreseeable future as the funds provided to keep our school open are applied for annually.
  • A community neighbour has multiple elementary schools and a shiny new and under-utilized high school.
  • Our community neighbour also has a hospital with an emergency room.
  • That same community neighbour is home to a regional provincial services centre.

Why does this matter?

As we hover around 5,000 population and potentially incur a significant increase in policing costs for the same level of policing services as that neighbour, how will we then look as a community of choice for people pondering a move to the South Okanagan?

How will they measure significantly higher taxes, uncertain K-12 education and limited health care services — and then compare our circumstances with that community neighbour?

The Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen, Oliver and Osoyoos currently work within similar policing models. This works because of close proximity allowing the detachments to help each other.

Why should Osoyoos now have to pay considerably more for this shared service because of an additional 100 or so residents?

BC clearly has a rural economic sustainability problem — rural health care, rural education and rural essential services to name a few.

The most recent download to Osoyoos will most certainly add a set of entirely new challenges to this rural community and will absolutely make it more challenging for us to grow our base to help meet this latest economic upset.

We will — as always — do our best to deal with the cards that we’re dealt, but I suspect we’ll also have one eye nervously casting about, wondering what might be the next download.

We are a community of involved citizens, making up for rural challenges through volunteering and non-profit organizations. I am forever proud of this community for its willingness to get involved, fight for what’s right and for always being charitable when and where it matters.

But when will the provincial government recognize this and help us find solutions for our unique and vibrant community?

3 COMMENTS

  1. Correct me if I’m wrong, have we not known about the policing costs for at least 15 years now? Our town should have been saving up for this extra costs as we knew it was going to come to this one day.

  2. What happens if the population drops below the 5K, will the provincial government reverse the policing costs? Will the town then drop the additional tax base?

  3. I find it shocking that a town councillor was surprised at the population increase. Years ago, I lived in St. Albert, Alberta, where taxes were significantly higher than the city of Edmonton next door. Higher taxes never deterred people from choosing to live in St. Albert where residents could see the benefit of their tax dollars. IMHO, the same applies to Osoyoos. Oliver does not have our lake, or the tourism grants that benefit citizens as well. If the population continues to increase, and there is no reason to believe that it won’t, school closures will no longer be an issue, but managing growth will. Osoyoos is a lovely place to live, and will continue to attract new residents. Residents should be prepared for this, but it won’t surprise me if residents are unhappy with the costs.

Have your say . . .