Conservative leader says he’s ‘appalled’ by land swap

B.C. Conservative leader John Cummins thinks the province cut a bad deal.

B.C. Conservative leader John Cummins thinks the province cut a bad deal.

From Nov. 21 to 23, Cummins toured areas of West Kelowna and Kelowna.

During his stay, he visited some of the 698-acre parcel that is part of the proposed land swap between the province and Westbank First Nation.

On Tuesday night he spoke to a group of about 30 people at the West Kelowna Yacht Club about his concern with the exchange that would see the province hand over 698 acres in return for eight acres used in the development of the Westside Road Interchange.

“When I look at what the provincial government is prepared to give up to obtain the opportunity to build that overpass, I’m simply appalled, I’m shocked and I’m saddened,” said Cummins.

Cummins said he has been following this issue since it first came to light this past summer.

Touring the area gave him an opportunity to put into perspective what he had been reading about.

“We did a tour of the area (on Tuesday). It’s a beautiful piece of real estate. It would be an easy piece of real estate to develop, if that was your want. But it’s simply not appropriate in a watershed.”

The District of West Kelowna has been criticized for broadcasting its frustration through the media; however, Cummins commended the mayor and council for not letting the province off the hook. “(DWK council) very much handled it the right way. If you don’t talk to the media on these issues, it’s very easy for government to brush it aside and just continue. The public deserves to be informed; these lands belong to the people of B.C.”

Cummins called the province’s delay in granting Freedom of Information requests a “cover up” and a hesitation from Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure, Blair Lekstrom, to meet with DWK council as “dodging.”

“If (Lekstrom) is proud of what he’s done, he should let the folks know. If he thinks that he’s cut a bad deal on behalf of all British Columbians, then I guess he’s going to hide it. That’s exactly what he’s doing.”

After Cummins spoke to residents, the floor was opened up for questions.

Residents expressed concern over the deal’s lack of transparency, the impact the swap might have on the water shed and whether or not it is too late for anything to be done. One person asked what individuals could do in order to make a difference.

“I think that we have to get the broad public support, that goes without saying. We also have to make politicians in all levels of government aware of our concerns,” replied Cummins.

“You have to keep this issue alive in the public. That may mean (calling in) to the radio shows and I think you should be writing the premier on this.”