To: Electoral Boundary Commission
My name is Tom Styffe, and I am the current elected Chair for the Okanagan Board of Governors and the Alternate Director for the Regional District of Okanagan Similkameen. I have also been active in municipal and provincial politics, including serving as a councillor for Logan Lake. I am semi-retired after a lengthy career in construction project management.
First of all, thank you for your good work to date.
In providing feedback respective of the Electoral Boundary Commission’s recommendations for Boundary-Similkameen, I believe the argument for status quo trumps all others. Below are reasons why I believe you should recognize our special nature or circumstance and keep the Boundary-Similkameen riding as is.
Distinct economy, unique character
• We are a comfortable, rural farming community that does not aim or worry about higher-density or population. We are different from Penticton, Kelowna and other Okanagan ridings. We are home to rich First Nations heritage, world-class wine-makers, tourism specialists, nature lovers and Canada’s only desert.
• Our economy is rooted in horticulture, agriculture and tourism. We are not specialists in mining, ranching and forestry. We share very little in common with Princeton’s main economic drivers.
• Boundary should remain untouched and be considered special for no greater reason in that it enables neighbouring ridings to remain special (consider other ridings like Fraser-Nicola and Kootenay West).
• Starting in 2016, Oliver is expecting a sharp increase in full-time residency with the addition of the new Oliver correctional facility. The facility will employ over 240 new full-time jobs and generate more spin off jobs, including 1000 construction jobs. Notably, when considering voter population, another 370 plus inmates, who are afforded the right to vote, will also fall within the Boundary-Similkameen boundary.
• Oliver housing permits are on the increase. Not substantial, but still on the increase (Source: City of Oliver. 2013: 4 permits / 2014: 17 permits)
• We anticipate the Boundary-Similkameen area (particularly Osoyoos) will continue to be an attractive, affordable retirement destination. As baby-boomers retire, we will experience a healthy increase of full and part-time residents looking for a sunny, warm place to call home.
• Growth from the “Snowbird effect” is already beginning, as reported by Destinations Osoyoos.
“Destinations Osoyoos reports between January and March 2015, accommodators have reported a 35% increase over last year in the number of long term stay Snowbirds to Osoyoos. Accommodators have had to set more rooms aside to accommodate the rising demand. “
Seasonal population spikes, MLA service
• Osoyoos consistently experiences a sharp increase in population over a four month period and, of course, the MLA still needs to provide representation and services, regardless if they are full or part time residents.
• Osoyoos Chamber of Commerce estimates an increase of 5000, almost doubling the Osoyoos population in July and August alone.
Forecasted vs. census numbers
• Considering the above numbers, an estimated 2000 votes should not overshadow the Boundary-Similkameen community best interests.
• If you consider seasonal population spikes, the new jail, and statistical deviations on BC statistics forecasted numbers (vs. census), the 2000 voter population is not a serious concern. I suggest it is not a problem at all.
• When you look broadly at provincial numbers in all interior ridings, my community has no issue with Boundary at 37,000 and Penticton at 56,000. The numbers are more than reasonable.
Boundary-Similkameen is not desperate for new people or frankly new Towns for our MLA to service. The current boundary is working and I believe we have an exciting future ahead of us.
Thank you for your good work and for the opportunity to provide feedback before you make your final decision.
Tom Styffe, Okanagan Falls, Boundary-Similkameen