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Aug 1, 2019

Policy: Kelowna Chamber Engages BC Government, Thompson-Okanagan Chambers

The Kelowna Chamber hosted senior officials from twelve BC Government ministries last week in the first ever regional consultation between the Province and the BC Chamber network. The day-long consultation session on Tuesday July 23 was the first of a series of regional meetings around the province that are meant to expedite discussion on critical issues impacting BC’s economy. In past years, policies and specific recommendations for government, adopted at the BC Chamber annual conference were forwarded to government with a request for written responses; a process that could take months to complete. These new regional discussions are meant to get to the heart of the issue faster. Eleven chambers from the Thompson Okanagan region plus the BC Chamber’s senior executive were also at the table.

“This new format – engaging face-to-face with Deputy Ministers and senior staff – and enabling immediate feedback created a meaty, substantive, intense day that moved the dial on a wide range of issues,” said Dan Rogers, Executive Director of the Kelowna Chamber. “Kelowna submitted eight policies to the BC Chamber in May 2019; all were adopted, and this was an immediate opportunity to bring our policies to the attention of the applicable ministry and know that the recommendations are now on the table in Victoria.”

Out of the Kelowna Chamber’s roster of policies adopted by the BC Chamber network over the past 14 months, several got singled out for significant discussion.

  • End the Speculation Tax. The Kelowna Chamber’s position continues to be that the “Spec Tax” will not alleviate the housing crisis. The tax seems popular only in areas where it is not implemented, or with a demographic slice that does not include homeowners. Our Chamber recommends that the provincial government eliminate the speculation tax immediately, and destroy all submission records from citizens.  The Kelowna Chamber did request that all information and data exchanged between the Finance Minister and the local government representatives she meets with at the upcoming UBCM be made public so it is clear how much money is being raised in Kelowna and West Kelowna as a result of this new tax.
  • Accelerating Transportation in the central Okanagan corridor. While some municipal steps are being taken to broaden active transportation – walking, transit, bicycling, scooters – getting industrial products to and from markets isn’t making much progress. Our Chamber’s favourite line in 2019 is “you can’t put a log on a bus”. Our policy recommendations – strongly supported by our collegial valley chambers – include engaging the business community and industry leaders in identifying strategic regional investments in the transportation network in  the Okanagan – including planning for an eventual second lake crossing; highway bypass routes; and other highway upgrades that would improve safety and efficiency of the system from the US border in the south to the intersection with Highway 1 in the north.  Industry wants and needs to be at the table when regional planning occurs, and this session allowed us to make that point to the Ministry officials in the room.
  • We also promoted our Community Court policy. The City of Kelowna, local judiciary and the Chamber all support ongoing efforts to establish a community court in Kelowna.  The government is currently focused on “Situation Tables” wherein better identification – prior to the ‘next offense’ are meant to keep streets safer and focus on treatment and removal of the individual from the environment. 
  • Recycling policy. The Chamber got a positive reception from BC Chamber delegates when we tabled this policy in May.  Essentially calling for higher tech solutions to the pesky issue of recycling plastic and glass bottles, cans and the like through reverse vending machines, the policy would increase recycling levels particularly in more rural and remote areas of the province and divert much product from the waste stream. We are delighted at the reception of the policy by the Ministry of the Environment, who have just tabled a report calling on private vendors, as we did, to up their game, and take on more recycling responsibilities.

“Presenting our policies to government is a critical part of our network’s robust policy process,” says Val Litwin, CEO of the BC Chamber of Commerce. “We look forward to working collaboratively with government in the year ahead on numerous files for the betterment of all BC’s regional economies.”

“We look forward to hearing from our chamber colleagues as they engage with BC Government officials in these regional meetings. We are the largest and most influential voice for business in BC and representing our members’ interests here in the Okanagan is a key member benefit that our Chamber provides,” concluded Rogers.

The complete BC Chamber Policy & Positions Manual for 2019-2020 can be accessed online at http://www.bcchamber.org/policies

For more information:

Dan Rogers, Executive Director   dan@kelownachamber.org/250-469-7356