Outvoted: rural Okanagan residents seek new governance model

NORTH WESTSIDE – It’s only about a hour drive from Kelowna but some believe the North Westside is far removed from decision making at the Regional District of Central Okanagan (RDCO).

“What it boils down to is our elected representatives are always outvoted. We’ve lost our local governance,” says president of the North Westside Community Association, Bob Andrews. “Because of that we don’t have fair representation for our tax funds.”

On the regional district’s board, the two directors from rural electoral areas are far outnumbered by the ten directors form municipalities like Kelowna and West Kelowna. Feeling they can’t be effectively represented, some residents areas are speaking out.

“We have specific issues that are quite unrelated to issues of people in the city,” says Gary Blidook, a resident of the Central Okanagan East Electoral Area.

A regional district spokesperson points out voting structures haven’t changed and says residents can always bring their concerns to directors.

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“The municipal and electoral area directors can bring those concerns at any time to their regional district staff or board table for discussion,” says RDCO spokesperson Bruce Smith. “The regional district board is an open forum, it is transparent.”

Electoral area director for Central Okanagan West, Wayne Carson, acknowledges directors can put local issues in front of the regional district board, “but it is difficult because there are only the two representatives from the electoral areas [and] the other ten representatives are from the municipalities.”

A number of possible solutions have been floated, including creating new municipalities in the electoral areas, amalgamating the electoral areas into existing municipalities or creating an electoral area committee.

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