The interruption came as South Okanagan – West Kootenay MP Richard Cannings was midway through an explanation of how moving forward a South Okanagan Similkameen park reserve process would include additional consultation.
“There’s a mosaic of land ownership, so it’s not an easy process and we have to listen to the concerns of everyone,” Mr. Cannings was saying at an MOU-signing event this morning when a lone voice challenged his assertion.
“You haven’t listened to any concerns of many people,” the voice from the back suggested.
“You haven’t listened to anybody,” it added as Mr. Cannings attempted to continue.
The protester was chastised by Chief Clarence Louie, who called the episode “disrespectful” and “embarrassing.” But there were others attending who also expressed reservations about the process.
“I don’t think you’ll find anyone who doesn’t like national parks,” said Helena Konanz, the federal Conservative candidate for the local riding. “Even the people who heckled here have been to national parks before. What they don’t like is the uncertainty of their lives.”
“Everybody likes to visit a national park, but would you want to live in one, especially if you don’t know what the rules are going to be?”
Lionel Trudel — who speaks for the South Okanagan-Similkameen Preservation Society — explained his frustration with the park process moving forward.
“We’re essentially being dictated to by provincial representatives who aren’t elected and do not live in the area, he said. “We’re being dictated to by a federal MP from Lake Country who’s introducing the minister. All these people from other jurisdictions are coming to our area, telling us how we should be preserving our land.
“This kind of colonial environmentalism still isn’t popular with the locals.”
Also left out of the conversation today were elected members of the Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen’s Board of Directors.
Both Area “A” director Mark Pendergraft and Area “C” director Rick Knodel sat quietly during the event, listening but not participating.
Ms. Konanz said improved communication is key to righting what she calls a “botched” process.
“That communication has to be improved; it’s been botched so far and it needs to be improved.”
Mr. Trudel had another solution.
“We’re in an election year and I think it’s going to have a direct result on the outcome of the election,” he said. “As far as the government not representing the people, it’s a massive issue and that needs to be addressed.”