Growing Green in the Okanagan Valley

In May 2013, Dr. Andrew Weaver was elected to the British Columbia Legislature by the people of Oak Bay-Gordon Head. He was the first B.C. Green elected in the province and he has represented his constituents and the Party well.

Renewal in the B.C. Green Party continued this past weekend at the party’s Annual General Meeting in West Kelowna. Hard work over the past 12 months, inside and outside of the Legislature, has been rewarded with the election of a strong new party Executive which is dedicated to building the party’s capacity.

In the week leading up to the AGM, I traveled throughout the Okanagan, meeting with local governments, businesses and community leaders. I am thrilled with the response we received. The B.C. Greens have good reason to be optimistic.

There is an overwhelming appetite for a more transparent and accountable provincial government. The chaos in the legislature is being replicated in communities across the province.

There is an urgency up and down the Okanagan valley, because villages, towns and cities are growing and the cost of maintaining the aging infrastructure is catching up. Municipalities are the fabric of B.C. and they survive almost exclusively on property taxes. What few Provincial grants that exist - programs that one Mayor referred to as “beauty contests” - address issues whose effects are seen immediately, but the more serious infrastructure problems are rotting communities from the inside.

Using new growth to pay to upgrade the old doesn’t fix the problem; it makes it worse. Developers pay for the installation but property taxes have to maintain it. Without any other revenue sources, elected leaders lean on property taxes. The greatest burden is put on industrial and commercial landowners, negatively impacting small and medium business and damaging local economies.

A strong provincial economy is founded on solid local and regional economies, so let’s redefine the relationship between the provincial and local governments. Since municipalities own and maintain the infrastructure that the provincial economy is built on, it is silly to starve them of the resources they need. Instead, let’s make this relationship a joint venture.

The B.C. Greens are a fiscally, socially and ecologically responsible party and we know there is a cleaner future for the province.

While in Summerland, we met an installer of solar energy systems. His story is proof that a green economy produces jobs. When the government offered solar rebates, his small business employed up to 15 employees. Now the rebates are gone and he has just four.

We visited the Jim Pattison Centre of Excellence, a living building at Okanagan College in Penticton. While only marginally more expensive (about $2 per square foot) than a LEED built building, the operational cost of a ‘living building’ is much better and it is far more pleasant to live and work in.

The impact of ‘living building’ on the environment is minimal. For example, the College has protect an equivalent amount of land. This facility is one of many Okanagan examples of a project that is great for people, the economy and the environment.

An issue is rarely just an economic, social or ecological problem; the solutions are often integrated. As shown by Andrew Weaver throughout the spring session, Greens seek practical solutions and are committed to addressing the priorities of British Columbians.

We are asked regularly, “Are you for the [insert issue] or against it?” In our highly partisan, black and white world, there is hardly the opportunity to discuss the nuances of the issues. But the public wants to know and they want to be a part of solution.

We all want a government who seeks balance, accountability and integrity. As one Mayor in the Okanagan recognized, people are waking up to the fact that they are really green at heart. The B.C. Greens are well positioned for more electoral success in future by-elections and the next provincial election in 2017.

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