Municipal leaders around the Central Okanagan have banded together to ensure the region emerges from the COVID-19 pandemic with a strong economy.
All Central Okanagan mayors, the Regional District of the Central Okanagan (RDCO), as well as Westbank First Nation’s Chief Chris Derickson, participated in a virtual news conference on April 15 to announce the Regional Mayors’ and Westbank First Nation Chief’s Economic Recovery Task Force.
While the Central Okanagan Economic Development Commission is already working to help businesses in the short-term by outlining available resources to combat shutdowns and revenue losses, the new task force will focus on the medium- and long-term economic recovery of the region. The task force adds the weight of local politicians who can lobby for support from higher levels of government — which is exactly what it plans to do.
“We are asking for assistance. One of those is in the tax deferral program because we know many people are struggling, and perhaps they would be better served in deferring their taxes,” said Basran, who is heading the force along with RDCO board chair Gail Given.
“The municipality can’t do that, it’s a program offered by the provincial government.”
The task force will work alongside the 45 board members of the commission to find ways to ensure businesses are both still around and successful after provincial orders regarding gatherings are eased or lifted.
No specific examples were given on what future action will be taken by the task force.
Westbank First Nation Chief Chris Derrickson said it’s the ‘resilience’ of the local business community that will lead it out of these trying times, however.
“I think we’re one of the most entrepreneurial areas in Canada,” he said. “It is not necessary this task force – it will help – but it will be those entrepreneurs and those people already out there taking these risks to start those businesses.”