With Okanagan Falls and the region east of Skaha Lake on the brink of breaking apart from the rest of the Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen Area D Director Tom Siddon has announced he will not be running in the next municipal election.
“I’ve indicated it’s probably time to not run again and give potential candidates the opportunity to start thinking if they are going to run,” said Siddon.
Related: Okanagan Falls district could split
Siddon said his announcement is early enough to have candidates come forward in what he believes will become two ridings by the time municipal elections begin in October. The division would see Area D consist of Okanagan Falls and the east side of Skaha Lake (Heritage Hills, Skaha Estates and other rural areas) and a new Area I created for Kaleden, Apex, Twin Lakes and the rural areas west of Skaha Lake. It is a model that Siddon helped lead the charge on over two years ago.
Related: Okanagan Falls governance study begins
“I think it is an important step. For a long time Okanagan Falls sought to be incorporated, but the minister of the previous government suggested a governance study which took two years. It was headed by a group of citizens and a consulting group that guided them through the process. Splitting is a consequence of the options,” said Siddon.
If the change occurs, it will be 55-45 split of the population down the watershed line.
The director believes, from the information he has been told, that the addition of a new electoral area will come after a provincial cabinet meeting in March. This will give time to implement the boundary changes and documentation in time for the next election. The RDOS has already approved the recommendation that came out of the study, that included public input.
Siddon said adding another chair around the RDOS table will not only help take some of the workload off the expansive boundaries of Area D, but will add another important voice for the constituents in those communities.
While he believes it is a step in the right direction, Siddon said ultimately the best outcome would be Okanagan Falls incorporating in the future. If that occurred, Okanagan Falls would make decisions through an elected mayor and council. The incorporated area would also have a seat at the RDOS.
“I think splitting still has significant merit but ultimately as Okanagan Falls grows incorporation could happen. I am not pushing for or against, that will be the challenge for the next director of Area D,” said Siddon. “I think Okanagan Falls would benefit from the ultimate structure of an advisory group to advise the new director. The group would bring the pulse of the community into debate on issues that are important.”