It didn’t take long for the issue of Okanagan Falls incorporation to come up at an all-candidates’ meeting in the community on Monday night.
About 100 people crowded into the local school gym to listen to incumbent Tom Siddon and challenger Alan Whitman, the two men seeking election Nov. 15 as Area D director on the board of the Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen, spar over local issues, including a governance study for the community.
Siddon has asked the province to investigate whether the town’s current position under the jurisdiction of the RDOS is the best form of governance for residents, or if they’d be better served by incorporating and having their own mayor and council.
While the province hasn’t yet committed to that study, Whitman said in his opening statement that incorporation would require new staff and infrastructure and require property tax increases, so the plan should be stopped in its tracks. He noted Area D residents are also being asked to pony up to help fund the expansion of Penticton Regional Hospital and new transit service to Penticton.
“Incorporation would mean a third property tax increase, and nobody’s ever explained what, if any, benefits will come because of it,” Whitman said.
Siddon noted, however, that he’s not pushing for incorporation, but rather a study of the idea. And until that’s done, he continued, no one can say how much a self-governing Okanagan Falls would cost residents.
“It’s absolutely false when Mr. Whitman stands here and tries to tell you that incorporation means higher taxes,” said Siddon.
“It’s just preposterous. It’s a head-in-the-sand approach to say: ‘We don’t want to have an answer to that question.’”
Both men seem to agree on other issues like the need for sewer extensions to Kaleden and Skaha Estates, revitalization of the Okanagan Falls town centre, and a resolution to concerns about the Twin Lakes aquifer.
Whitman and Siddon were also scheduled to square off Tuesday night at a forum in Kaleden. Advanced voting for Area D is at the RDOS office at 1010 Martin St. Nov. 5 from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., Nov. 8 and 9 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.