Castanet News has distributed a questionnaire to each candidate running for a local Regional District seat in the South Okanagan.
All candidates have been given the same questions, and answers have been edited for clarity and brevity when needed. An interactive database of Okanagan candidates, including previous questionnaire stories, is being updated daily.
Election day is Oct. 15.
Why would you make an effective Area D director?
Strong and lasting relationships! I have a history of building these with the people I work with. For 30-plus years, I’ve worked for agricultural industry groups, helping to identify issues, working with them and government agencies in developing possible solutions, implementing the preferred plan, and then evaluating it.
Those are transferrable skills to the director role that involves listening to and representing the communities that make up Area D, helping them to identify key issues, and working with them and RDOS and other governments to develop and implement the preferred solutions.
A strong and respectful working relationship with our Regional District government is essential to getting things done, and I’m confident I can “bring that to the table” as Area D director for the benefit of our residents.
I’m also an initiator and problem solver. When the OK Falls grocery closed I organized a meeting of residents that led to the formation of the Okanagan Falls Community Association. In the last 2-1/2 years that association has undertaken projects that are taking the community in a more positive direction.
In your view, what is the number one issue facing Area D today and how would I deal with it knowing the regional district only has so much power?
Like many other Rural Areas and communities within the RDOS, aging infrastructure is probably the number one issue that needs attention. This has become even more of an issue with the growth that is occurring now in Area D, and more future growth is anticipated. Essential services such as sewer, water and roads need significant investment to keep up with both general wear and tear resulting from their age, as well as the emerging needs that accompany growth. I believe that this is something that will be ‘top of mind’ for the next decade.
I’d like to note one other issue. ‘Climate resiliency’ is critical to Area D’s future. We have already experienced the residential disruptions caused by fire and flood, the impact of smoke on the grapes and temperature swings on the fruit and the impact on tourism. This is a national/global issue and key policy decisions and direction in Canada will be established nationally and provincially. That said, there are things we can do locally; and I will work with all parties to recognize the issues and implement local initiatives in addition to prompting the RDOS to raise the issue with senior governments.
The Regional District Board has 19 voting members. How would you ensure Area D concerns are addressed when it comes to regional issues.
Area D is the largest rural area by population within the RDOS and is something of an anomaly, with Okanagan Falls being one of the largest unincorporated communities in BC governed directly by a regional board. This creates special issues that I’d address in three ways.
First and where possible, I’d have Area D’s needs presented and communicated to the RDOS Board by residents. This also involves working with various community associations and groups so that they can present on their issues of concern.
Second, I am experienced in championing positions to government and will use these skills to benefit Area D residents. This involves ensuring that issues are researched and the implications understood. From this basis I will inform the board on the concerns and needs of Area D residents.
Finally, I will work with other RDOS Directors outside of the meetings, leveraging Area D assets and services with those of other Areas or municipalities, to generate the support necessary to effectively address Area D issues.
An incorporation study has been requested for a boundary including Okanagan Falls and a few adjacent areas within Area D. In your opinion should this portion of Area D be incorporated?
While the boundary configuration option recommended to the RDOS board was not my first choice, I am very supportive of the process we are presently engaged in. I personally put forward the significantly smaller option that included Okanagan Falls and some adjacent neighbourhoods. This option was not accepted by the committee and in order to ensure that the process continued, I voted in support of the larger area that has since been recommended to the RDOS board.
In my view, there were some understandable but significant limitations in the scope of the recently completed boundary study. For instance, we were unable to ask residents of Heritage Hills and Upper Carmi if they wished to incorporate with Penticton rather than OK Falls; or if residents of Vaseux Lake preferred to join Area C. Through the Study RDOS Board and staff and provincial government are more aware of these and other issues and I believe that they will be taken into account as the larger incorporation study process progresses.
This process — with incorporation either taking place or not, as determined by referendum – will likely be completed within the next four years. I will champion the allocation of sufficient RDOS resources to effectively support that process, and ensure that the views of each of the five Area D communities are fairly heard.
If you had $1 million to spend on anything for Area D, how would you spend it?
While $1 million is a lot of money for me or any other individual, it cannot complete some of the initiatives we might want in Area D!
There is a tremendous amount of creativity that resides with the residents, businesses and organizations in Area D. They’ve already done some really significant work and I think there is opportunity for some truly amazing outcomes if we enable them to do more.
So if I had one million dollars I would set up a public grant process, parcelling out $333,000/year for each of the last three years of the coming term. Grants would range from $25,000 to $100,000 each, and projects would need to foster community revitalization and sustainability, possibly through outcomes involving moderate growth in jobs, housing, and amenities. Grants of this size and number, would enable several groups to advance initiatives that would enhance communities throughout Area D.
In short, I’d use the $1 million to empower Area D to become a more sustainable and vibrant place to live and do business.
Picture Area D 20 years from now. What are the key aspects that are making it thrive?
To thrive we need a vision that we can all ‘buy in’ to for the most part. If we’re all generally pulling in the same direction, we’re way more likely to get there!
I see revitalized and vibrant communities in Area D, that have become sustainable through additional jobs, housing and amenities. An influx of younger families and retirees throughout our communities has complemented new climate friendly businesses that are working from the Okanagan Falls’ industrial land base. Our agricultural and tourism sectors remain as key drivers, with growth in the vineyard / winery, cattle, vegetable and touring / hospitality sectors. Remote workers will be a significant part of our community — flying out as required, from our nearby regional airport – while living and raising families in the place they choose.
In 2042 Okanagan Falls and Area D are a very desirable place to live and raise families, work and do business, and vacation!
Contributed Matt Taylor