Progress made toward Central Okanagan East referendum

Residents of Joe Rich, Ellison and June Springs may soon be able to vote on who their local government is.

Patty Hanson, Central Okanagan East electoral area director, announced Tuesday that Minister of Community, Sports and Cultural Development Bill Bennett has responded positively to her request to begin a referendum process for her constituents.

The referendum would ultimately give residents of the east electoral area four options: Stay with the Regional District of the Central Okanagan, join the City of Kelowna, join the District of Lake Country or incorporate into a new municipality.

"Minister Bill Bennett sent a letter in October assigning us a staff person in the Local Government Structure Unit and outlining what our next steps should be," said Hanson.

"The referendum committee is very excited to be able to move forward in the process."

According to the ministry's website, incorporating is a 14-step process. Before a referendum takes place a study will be conducted outlining options for the region's residents.

Hanson said she is frustrated with the Regional District governance and feels her residents' voices aren't being heard.

She used the South Slopes OCP public hearing as an example, where the majority of those in attendance did not support the community plan, yet the board still approved it.

The director said she has also been criticized for the way she has gone about the referendum process.

"I got lambasted by the board chair for not going to them first.

"I'm an elected official, I've got every right to talk to the minister if I so choose on behalf of my constituents."

When Hanson finally put forward a motion asking for support in the referendum process at a Regional Board meeting, she was not supported.

"Even a simple request to have staff speak to ministry staff was denied—although in a split vote. This once again reflects the systematic issues with an area the size and population of the Central Okanagan East being governed by a mostly appointed board who do not represent the voice of the citizens."

If the process continues to go forward, the next step will be establishing a terms of reference for an incorporation study and committee, then selecting an independent consultant to conduct the study.

If approved, the study will be funded by the province.


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