The independence movement for rural Okanagan West electoral area residents has hit a roadblock.
Okanagan West electoral area director Wayne Carson has been actively advocating for months to meet with the B.C. municipal affairs minister and Regional District of Central Okanagan board chair Gail Given.
Carson had hoped the recent internal study that revealed an “erosion of trust” between north Westside residents and the RDCO would be the impetus to set up that meeting.
But that isn’t likely to happen anytime soon.
Carson says the only concern at this point for his dissatisfied constituents is for a study to determine the financial feasibility to incorporate their community.
He has used terms like “deceitful,” “misrepresenting” and “lack of transparency” to describe regional district policy decisions that affect north Westside residents, and complained that he is not adequately informed by staff to be an effective electoral director for his constituents.
However, Given says Carson needs to understand there is a multi-step process laid out by the municipal affairs ministry on how the community can evolve from an unincorporated rural area to an incorporated municipality.
“From the very beginning of this, (Carson) has wanted to go straight to an incorporation study and the ministry has clearly indicated there is a process to follow before you reach the stage of a governance referendum,” Given said.
“There are many steps in that process and this is one of them.”
The step Given referred to was the study done by a consultant, funded by the municipal affairs ministry, that outlined the existence of a breakdown in communication and level of mistrust between many area residents and the RDCO.
The report cited communication issues and misinformation that has exacerbated the trust issue, reflected by a persistent sense among north Westside residents that the regional district board and staff don’t adequately represent their issues and that service costs, such as for water, are too high.
RDCO chief administrative officer Brian Reardon told the board it would cost $15,000 for a consultant to assist in implementing the communication improvement recommendations outlined in the report.
The board discussed the report at a January board meeting with Carson introducing a motion that included no further steps on the study recommendations be taken without the oversight of an independent moderator or mediator, and that a meeting be set up between the municipal affairs minister, RDCO board chair and himself to seek a self-governance feasibility study funded by the province.
That resolution was defeated, leaving the board ultimately to receive the report with no further recommendation to proceed on at this time.
At the meeting, Kelowna board director Charlie Hodge said Carson’s entire resolution was confrontational in nature and the wording reflected personal opinion being interpreted as fact.
Kelowna board director Tracy Gray felt the next step should be to address the communication deficiencies outlined in the report and look for internal solutions.
“It has been made clear us that an effort has to be made to find resolutions at each step before you move forward in this process,” Gray said.
Given said the report can and likely will be brought up by the board for future discussion at some point in the future.
“It is what it is for the moment,” she said.
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