Incumbent director Rick Fairbairn speaks to the crowd at the White Valley  Community Centre Tuesday as candidate Huguette Allen listens.

Incumbent director Rick Fairbairn speaks to the crowd at the White Valley Community Centre Tuesday as candidate Huguette Allen listens.

Election 2014: Tourism dominates forum

Regional District of the North Okanagan: Forty people gather to hear from incumbent Rick Fairbairn and Huguette Allen

Tourism opportunities are a priority for both candidates in rural Lumby.

Forty people gathered at the White Valley Community Centre Tuesday to hear from incumbent Rick Fairbairn and Huguette Allen, who are  vying to be Area D (rural Lumby) representative in the Nov. 15 municipal election.

Allen referred to tourism promotion  and developing the potential of the area on several occasions.

“There are such opportunities for tourism that I’m surprised it hasn’t happened already,” said Allen.

She pointed to the potential for interpretive centres, river tours and farm visits and tapping into the 50-plus market that wants to experience the area they visit.

“We live in one of the best places on Earth and we need to be pro-active to keep it that way,” said Allen.

“We can build an economy that doesn’t compete with the environment.”

Fairbairn pointed to his track record as Regional District of North Okanagan director since 2002 and his work with the White Valley Parks, Recreation and Culture Advisory Committee in successfully getting seed money for local culture and continuing to “proceed with arts people to help them develop new programs and new initiatives.”

He also talked about the potential of agritourism “to generate dollars on farms” and said he would support a non-agricultural business opportunity on agricultural land “if it makes sense.”

The lack of farm gate sales due to provincical regulation reared its head several times during the question period.

Fairbairn called it a “big topic” and one that he’s  “hammering ministers” on as he tries to come up with “alternate plans to allow farmers to make a living.”

He said it’s a frustrating issue but pointed to reason for some optimism as the agriculture minister is dedicated to solving the problem and that a pilot licensing project has been launched but only two have been issued so far.

Allen said the current rules “support industrial agriculture over local agriculture” and pointed to the increasing need for local food security in the future.

“Seven years is a long time to keep hoping for a solution (to farm gate sales),” she said.

Allen also suggested that Area D may need a more marketable identity for tourism promotion, utilizing a poll or contest to come up with a name, like Monashee Hills as an example. The idea could include a community newsletter and website.

Fairbairn said identity isn’t a problem in Area D and that the current committee setup working with the Village of Lumby and Area E (Cherryville) “works very well.”