UBC Okanagan prof cautions council to think about inevitability of change

"We know that we have climate change … what do we do if climate change negatively affects our productive capacity as a wine region?..."

City of Kelowna

What will Kelowna look like in 25 years? What will be its economic mainstay? How will environmental changes alter the landscape and everything else? Who will live here?

These are just a handful of questions posed to city council by Keith Culver, a professor of management at UBC Okanagan, who was in chambers Monday to speak about the Imagine Kelowna initiative.

Imagine Kelowna is the name the city has given the fact-finding process that leads into creating a community vision document. That document will ultimately set out  principles and strategic directions that will guide the city for the next 25 years.

Because it’s so far reaching,  Culver pointed out that the city can plan all it wants for the future, but it needs to work flexibility and adaptability into those plans so opportunity doesn’t pass it by.

“Kelowna’s long terms success is contingent on making friends with uncertainty,” he said.

The inevitability of change and the havoc it creates in its wake is something well laid out in the history books. For example, he said, 50 year old population projections for the Okanagan have continually fallen short, leaving local governments scrambling to address needs.

Technology has also evolved faster than expected, he said.

“Did anyone think 25 years ago that the internet would have the pervasive influence it’s had today?,” he said.

And politics changed the very landscape of the Okanagan.

“We have to plan for almost unthinkable possibilities,”he said.

“When the orchard area I grew up in went to vines, that was largely because of North American Free Trade Agreement.”

Fruit farmers worked 10 acre lots previous to the the trade agreement, but when when the borders opened for trade they instantly realized they couldn’t be competitive because farmers across the line were farming lots five times as big were acting with five times to the land.

“That’s why people went to vines instead for orchards,” he said.

That could acts as a cautionary tale, he said, noting that the entire culture around drinking changed in the Okanagan to accommodate the more cash friendly crop.

“We are staking a lot of planning on agritourism and being (people being) attracted to wine,” he said. “But we know that we have climate change … what do we do if climate change negatively affects our productive capacity as a wine region?”

So, he reiterated, plans need to be adaptive.

“In light of all of that, the very best vision you can come up with for the city, is a plan to be resilient across (multiple) predicted futures,” he said.

The city, he said, needs more than one Plan A, so it can be resilient to and take advantage of possibilities