An HNZ Topflight (former Canadian) helicopter over a region of the Similkameen. Western News file photo

‘No’ respondents are the majority in national park reserve survey

The latest poll also shows that of those surveyed, 75 per cent would like to see a referenedum

Flying in the face of previous opinion polls is a recent survey showing the majority of South Okanagan Similkameen residents surveyed were “strongly opposed” to a national park reserve in the region.

Commissioned by the South Okanagan Similkameen Preservation Society (SOSPS) through the Vancouver-based Innovative Research Group, their numbers show 35 per cent of the 300 residents asked were strongly opposed while 27 per cent strongly supported it.

The live-caller, cellular and landline interviews took place Dec. 12 to 19 last year. The margin of error for a random sample of this size is ±5.7 per cent 19 times out of 20.

The two major polls conducted in 2010 and 2015 by McAllister Opinion Research showed support of 63 per cent and 26 per cent opposition in the first survey, climbing to 69 per cent in favour, or 2:1 and 21 per cent opposed by the 2015 poll of 501 people.

The last McAllister survey also indicated the vast majority of ranchers, hunters, tourism operators, fishers, all-terrain and snowmobile users, campers and naturalists surveyed were in favour of a national park reserve.

Related: Parks Canada has ‘general concept’ in mind for South Okanagan-Similkameen

However, according to the SOSPS: “Most telling in the newest poll is the support for a referendum to determine if the national park reserve should be implemented. An amazing three out of four residents (75 per cent) of the South Okanagan and Similkameen regions want a referendum.”

SOSPS spokesman Lionel Trudel believes that statistic itself embodies the sentiment of the people directly affected, whether they are in favour or not.

“The number of 75 per cent support (in elections or polls) has never arrived in the whole history of the Okanagan, it usually runs in the high 50s or 60s,” said Trudel. “This is plus or minus five points so you could have this range from 71 to 81 per cent support for a referendum, which is huge.

“From talking with both our membership and people at large that live in the area it’s simply a case of climate scrutiny, people have had a chance to more time to look at historically what Parks Canada’s track record has been.”

The idea of a national park for the region has been around for nearly two decades and in the early 2000s Sen. Ross Fitzpatrick began the push for its creation, eventually resulting in division among different levels of governments, First Nations, organizations, businesses and neighbours.

The province’s opposition to the plan in the later stages put the project on hold which all changed last October when federal and provincial environment ministers and the Okanagan Nation Alliance representatives came together to announce they were resuming discussions to creating a national park reserve.

Those discussions were to involve looking at the continuation of ranching, recreational and business and other activities in the region if the park reserve goes ahead.

Doreen Olson, co-ordinator of the South Okanagan-Similkameen National Park Network says reports of the survey have raised a number of concerns on the part of her organization, including the high percentage requesting a referendum.

“The referendum, that’s why the province is involved, the First Nations, the government of Canada, we’re speaking through those representatives, they have agreed that we should have a national park here,” said Olson, Tuesday. “ At this point, this (SOSPS poll) just seems to be a detractor, because of frustration, misinformation. I think people need to get informed they need to go onto the (Parks Canada) website and see what’s there and put their comments there.”

She also questioned why, if there are that there are so many opposed, only eight people turned up at a Parks Canada presentation through Keremeos council several weeks ago.

Related: ‘Stars have aligned’ for national park proponents

“That was an indication to me that maybe the ‘no group’ isn’t as big as they think they are,” said Olson. “The other thing is this (SOSPS) poll was a very small poll, our polls were done from the entire RDOS (Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen) and included the entire area that’s going to be affected by the park, this poll was done from Keremeos, Cawston and Oliver and that’s really the hotbed of the of the ‘no park’ aggression.”

Included in the current talks are the boundaries of the park reserve, the creation of which is still believed to be a decade or more in the future.


 

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A previous protest in the Keremeos region to the national park reserve. A recent poll of those surveyed indicated most do not want the reserve to happen. Western News file photo

The most recent poll on the creation of a national park reserve in the South Okanagan Similkameen shows a majority of respondents are opposed to the plan. Western News file photo

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