Communities working in unison

Mayor James Baker (left)

In the world of politics getting things done is all about making one’s voice heard. With so many competing interests it’s easy for an individual voice to be lost in the din. One tactic politicians use to overcome this problem is to identify common issues and rally together around them. The effect is a stronger unified voice when pushing for change in governmental policy.

An active example of this strategy can be found in the Southern Interior Local Government Association (SILGA) of which Lake Country is a member. The organization is made up of elected representatives from 37 communities and 6 regional districts in the area of the province that its name corresponds to. In fact, Coun. Noreen Guenther was recently elected President of the organization at its annual convention earlier this month.

The issues that SILGA chooses to put its weight behind are decided upon at the annual convention. Member municipalities identify problems facing their communities and present them as resolutions to be voted on at the convention. If a resolution receives support from the majority of members then SILGA will press the issue with provincial and federal governments.

At this year’s convention Lake Country brought three resolutions to the table, all of which received the support of SILGA.

Two of Lake Country’s resolutions are aimed at protecting water resources.

The first of these resolutions expresses concern over wording regarding the trading of water rights in the Province’s Water Sustainability Act. Guenther says the language in the legislation is very general in nature. With the adoption of the resolution, SILGA is expressing strong reservations against the use of water rights as an economic trading instrument.

“We want to make sure that water rights don’t become a commodity,” says Guenther.

Lake Country’s second water-related resolution dealt with groundwater regulation. Under current legislation groundwater extraction is not regulated. The consequence is unpredictable stream flows that are problematic for farmers. By endorsing the resolution SILGA is supporting the creation of a groundwater regulation mechanism and the establishment of an agricultural water reserve.

The final resolution presented by Lake Country deals with development permit infractions and seeks to improve the tools available to municipalities in the event that they need to take legal action against development permit contraventions.

A number of other resolutions were brought forth from other communities that Guenther says are of considerable importance to Lake Country as well.

From Kelowna came a resolution advocating increased funding for the agriculture industry. Guenther says B.C. spends just 3.3 per cent of its GDP to support agriculture. The national average is 16.4 per cent of GDP and SILGA wants to see the Province match that level of spending.

Coldstream brought a resolution encouraging the Province to review the list of primary agricultural products (PAP). The PAP list is used to determine an agriculturalist’s eligibility for farm status and impacts allowable property uses within the agricultural land reserve. By supporting the resolution the SILGA communities feel that the list is too restrictive. SILGA will push for the PAP list to include greater opportunities for value-added products, the introduction of new products, and horse-related activities.

Another resolution supported by SILGA calls for the restoration of gaming grants and their eligibility criteria to 2008-2009 standards.

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