Oliver Mayor Ron Hovanes believes the Town should not be taking a position in the national park debate.
That’s why he struggled with and opposed Councillor Jack Bennest’s motion last week.
Hovanes said the motion, called “Living Together With Respect,” is not a “meaty” title.
“It’s like asking people to play nicely in a sandbox. I don’t think there’s a need for council to take a position on it.”
Bennest’s motion, which narrowly passed in a 3-2 vote, asks the Town to support the province in acquiring land to protect the area’s grasslands and endangered species.
The motion continues to encourage the use of the outdoors for the historic and traditional use of many areas for mining, ranching, hunting, business, forestry and recreation.
In the end, council removed the words “mining” and “forestry” before passing the motion.
Hovanes said the previous council asked the government to re-engage in park discussions, so he didn’t see the purpose of the new motion.
But Bennest said the province has stated it will not pursue a national park.
He reiterated that his motion is the foundation of what everyone agrees on – better land management in protecting endangered species and grasslands.
“I don’t think I can make it any more clear,” Bennest said.
The councillor didn’t mind saying that he was encouraged by the provincial government to proceed with the motion’s intent.
“It’s very clear to me based on talks with the Ministry of Environment that a national park is not on the table.”
The councillor pointed out that people who use the outdoors know that changes are happening in terms of stronger regulations on hunting and fishing.
Councillor Larry Schwartzenberger said he’s normally not in favour of voting on motions that the Town has no jurisdiction over.
“This is a motherhood issue,” he stated.
But Bennest reminded council that this issue is right in the middle of Oliver.
Schwartzenberger said everyone is getting caught up in two options (the no side and the yes side), but there are many other options in protecting flora and fauna.
In the end, the councillor voted in favour of the motion after suggesting the amendment that “mining” and “forestry” be omitted.
But Councillor Petra Veintimilla said the province has not asked council to support what it is doing.
“Passing this motion is like giving them a pat on the back.”
Veintimilla suggested that council also omit the words “to acquire land” because this flies in the face of those who want a national park.
“This (motion) is putting us on one side of the fence,” she stated.
But council did not support her suggestion.
Fellow Councillor Maureen Doerr said First Nations are the big stakeholder in this and need to be dealt with.
But Veintimilla said the Okanagan Nation Alliance are already on board with a national park.
Doerr, a rancher’s daughter who does not support a national park reserve, said the “no” side is extremely strong but very quiet and respectful.
“They are the silent majority right now.”
Doerr said nobody is listening to farmers and ranchers in the national park debate.
The motion passed, with support from Bennest, Doerr and Schwartzenberger.