By Lyonel Doherty
Osoyoos Indian Band Chief Clarence Louie admits that he’s in the last quarter of his life. But he’s going to spend that last quarter helping the younger generation succeed.
That was the crux of his speech to the South Okanagan Chamber of Commerce during “Coffee Connections” at Fairview Mountain Golf Course last week.
Despite age catching up to him, Louie does not want what many older people desire – peace and quiet. He doesn’t want to sit around smelling the flowers, either.
“My passion is looking after the young people, not my peace and quiet. If I have to put up with a little more noise (or waiting at another traffic light), that’s worth it for the young people and the families that need an income.”
The chief, who has never taken a sick day off work in 30 years, acknowledged that most retirees understand the value of attracting businesses to the community. But there are a few who just want to sit in the backyard while young families scrape by.
“We should be thinking about the younger people (and let them have their chance at success).”
Louie referred to the Area 27 racetrack as a business that will impact a lot of people in the region. (He said the grand opening is scheduled for the first week of June.)
He admitted that not everyone supports this enterprise, adding that white people agree to disagree just as much as natives do.
But Louie said when you see a $900,000 car cruising through the small town of Oliver, that’s a rare event.
He said everyone who owns one of these super cars has a network of business people.
“I’m looking forward to Area 27. It will bring a caliber of business people that this region has never seen before.”
Louie said that Area 27’s spin-off benefits will be “unreal.”
The chief said he was in an Oliver restaurant with someone last week and noticed that they were the only ones in there.
“This is bothersome to business people. Many of our businesses are barely scraping by. I want to see wealthy people here laying down cash.”
Louie said if it wasn’t for Area 27, one winery’s entire stock of Chardonnay would not have been purchased.
The chief said some people don’t want Oliver to exceed 5,000 in population because they don’t want to pay extra for police protection. He called this a narrow-minded view.
“They are not business-minded people . . . they are not sweating bullets in paying their staff.”
Louie said the best way to prevent schools from closing in Oliver and Osoyoos is to bring jobs here and ensure that people with children earn paycheques.
The chief, who’s running for re-election again, said it’s a bad sign for the business community when an enterprise burns down and the lot remains empty.
“We’ve got a big problem in Oliver and Osoyoos . . . we need business.”
Louie said the people who are opposed to the Okanagan Correctional Centre are basically saying, “Send the jobs somewhere else, we don’t want them.”
He pointed to the Burrowing Owl winery near Osoyoos as a business that has “raised the bar” in what it offers to customers.
“We all need to raise the bar. You don’t do that by saying you want peace and quiet.”
Louie talked about the future of the Osoyoos Indian Band, noting there are some “deals” that he hopes to announce soon.
He also mentioned the existence of land claims that the band is working on in order to add more land to their reserve. “Many of you are making money on our land,” he said. “The OIB has been left out of the picture for a long time, so we’ve got some catching up to do.”
Local entrepreneur Alberto Veintimilla commented that it would be nice to have access to more business opportunities when the band leases its land to companies.
He noted that most of the bidding contracts go out of town. Louie said the band doesn’t own these companies but does have some influence.
“We have to improve on that . . . we’ll make sure we throw (local) business names out there every chance we get.”