It seems every week there is a news story about increasing conflicts at the regional district or about another municipality wanting to withdraw from shared services. As a resident of the North Okanagan I am increasingly concerned about the future governance of our community. I use the singular term, “community”, because in truth the North Okanagan is one large interconnected community. So it warms my heart to see more voices calling for an honest look at how we conduct our affairs municipally, mainly amalgamation. I suggest we take this a step further and start talking about a regional municipality.
We need to look at a regional municipality because the current system is failing. Currently there is more finger pointing and talk about who pays for what and who benefits from whom than real action on issues facing residents of the North Okanagan.
As it stands, the governance behaves as if there are real borders between residents of Vernon and Coldstream, or Vernon and Spallumcheen, or Armstrong and Lumby. The reality is we all live, work and play in each other’s municipal jurisdictions. I live in Spallumcheen but work in Vernon. I am just as concerned about the actions taken by the City of Vernon as I am about the actions taken by Spallumcheen.
With a regional municipality, one jurisdiction will oversee the provisions of services for the whole North Okanagan. That means no more regional district and no more claims that one group is using the services of another without contributing to them. It means that we can use resources more efficiently and reduce duplication and waste. Accountability improves as decisions makers are responsible to everyone.
And if you are concerned about one community electing all members of council, an electoral ward system would prevent it.
What I propose does not mean the end of Coldstream, Vernon, Lumby, Armstrong, Spallumcheen, Enderby and everyone in-between. We naturally retain the culture and history that makes each place in North Okanagan a pleasure to live in. I offer the Halifax Regional Municipality in Nova Scotia as an example. It has been many years that the City of Halifax, Dartmouth and Bedford ceased to be independent jurisdictions but culturally nothing has changed. What they do have is stronger land use planning, comprehensive transit, and better services.
I for one would be proud to belong to the North Okanagan Regional Municipality. It means a more responsible and efficient municipal government. The NORM will focus on solving issues, responding to the needs of residents, and building a stronger community, where everybody knows your name.