Okanagan East director Patty Hanson’s announcement about progress being made toward incorporation has several residents infuriated.
Last week Hanson announced Minister of Community, Sports and Cultural Development Bill Bennett has responded positively to her request to begin a referendum process for her constituents.
She said the move would allow residents to be better represented and said the current governing body—Regional District of the Central Okanagan—does “not represent the voice of the citizens.”
But according to some residents of Okanagan East, it is Hanson who is not representing their voice.
“Your continuing derogatory comments and accusations regarding the regional district governing and its board members to the residents and the media is unprofessional and an embarrassment to every resident within the RDCO East,” Okanagan East resident Edna Thiessen wrote to Hanson in an open letter last week.
Thiessen became aware of the issue after attending a community meeting in Ellison Sept. 12. She said the sign outside Ellison Hall that read: Discussion—Kelowna, to be or not to be, was a misleading representation of what the meeting was actually about.
“People out here have always felt a little threatened that the city might just take us over…it’s been a real tender spot for a lot of residents out here,” said Thiessen.
“Most people that live out here choose to live out here because they don’t want to live within the city limits.”
Thiessen said she was frustrated after realizing the meeting was not what she expected.
“Patty stood up and spent about the first 20 minutes bashing the regional district on how they govern, how her motions are dealt with. We all kind of looked at each other and thought: What the heck is going on here? We didn’t come out to listen to this.”
Thiessen added Hanson used “scare tactics” to make the incorporation concept seem appealing. She said the director talked about how services such as snow plowing would be improved if the area had its own government.
A petition requesting an incorporation study was also passed around at the meeting; Thiessen noted there wasn’t an option to disagree with incorporation on the petition.
Thiessen attended another community meeting in Joe Rich earlier this month. Prior to the meeting, she sent e-mails to all board members of the regional district, inviting them to attend. Director Gail Given took her up on the offer.
“Gail’s presence kept Patty from the 20 minutes of board-bashing that we had to endure at Ellison.”
According to Thiessen, Hanson struggled to answer many questions regarding numbers and figures. She said Given spoke up to answer questions or correct misinformation multiple times.
Since the Nov. 14 meeting, Capital News has received several letters questioning Hanson’s intentions.
“There is something motivating her to all this because it is not the support of the general voters,” said Thiessen.
Thiessen and several others agree that motivation is Kelowna Mountain.
On Nov. 16, Morena Taylor sent an open letter to the regional district board members, expressing her concern with the incorporation proposal.
“Could it be that Ms. Hanson is so deeply entrenched in her support of the Kelowna Mountain development that she has lost sight of the interests of the people who live in these areas?” wrote Taylor.
“In my opinion, elected officials should not be seen to be so invested in the interest of a business application that they would promote a campaign to withdraw from the current local government in order to gain approval for the business interest.”
Thiessen pointed to the fact Kelowna Mountain representative Michelle Rule has been a main speaker at the community meetings.
Joe Rich resident John Collinson said very few people who he has spoken to agree with Hanson’s position on incorporation.
“Just be aware that Hanson does not speak for me, nor do I believe she represents my best interests as a Joe Rich resident, taxpayer and constituent,” Collinson wrote in an open letter to the regional district.
For now, Thiessen and a couple hundred other Okanagan East residents continue to communicate via e-mail and are determined to have their voices heard.
“Any attempt to further this incorporation, we will attempt to stop,” said Thiessen.