Penticton's local chamber of commerce has penned an open letter to the provincial premier, stating concerns about recent and upcoming decisions with an impact on local businesses.
The letter was released to media Monday by the Penticton and Wine Country Chamber of Commerce, addressed to Premier David Eby and urging him and his government to do more to consult with local communities and chambers ahead of such decisions as regulation of short-term rentals and speculation taxes.
The letter also mentions qualms with the Interior travel ban issued in August 2023, that had a major impact in the South Okanagan and beyond.
It is signed by Nicole Clark, chamber president, and Michael Magnusson, chamber executive director.
The full letter is as follows:
The Penticton & Wine Country Chamber of Commerce would like to take this opportunity to respectfully express our growing apprehension around the repeated lack of consultation with local government on crucial matters affecting Penticton and the South Okanagan.
Specifically, the implementation of the speculation tax, regulation of short-term rentals, and this summer’s travel ban without any prior discussion with community leaders.
Local governments, like their provincial counterparts, are elected representatives of the people, chosen to safeguard and promote the well-being of their communities. The Chamber believes it is essential that decisions impacting British Columbian communities are made through transparent and collaborative processes between both levels of government rather than a top-down, autocratic approach.
Just as when your government was bypassed and federal funds went directly to local governments in Burnaby and Surrey to help with housing, you supported provincial legislation that would stop Ottawa from giving cash directly to municipalities because you were elected to provide meaningful input and direction as to what happens in British Columbia.
Communication and collaboration between different levels of government is essential for crafting effective and equitable policies.
By actively involving local governments in decision-making processes, it ensures that the unique needs and nuances of diverse communities are taken into account rather than a simplistic and often-flawed one-size-fits-all approach that we have come to see several times this past year. Inclusion of local officials and staff will enhance the legitimacy and effectiveness of policy measures while also fostering a sense of shared responsibility and ownership among all stakeholders.
The unnecessary August travel ban, changes to short-term rental regulations in a city dependent on tourism, and now the speculation tax, have and will have an impact on Penticton. While this letter is not intended to discuss the specific and unintended consequences of these measures, we firmly believe that if the province had taken the time to consult with our local government on any of these matters, alternatives may have been identified which would ultimately lead to more successful outcomes for our residents and businesses.
Recognizing the authority and autonomy of local governments is crucial for maintaining a healthy democratic system. Local representatives are elected in the same manner, frequency, and by the same people as their provincial counterparts, and their voices deserve to be heard and considered.
While we understand that some local governments are stronger than others, disregarding this principle not only weakens the democratic fabric of our society but leads to decisions that do not consider the realities of individual communities.
We can also say with confidence that Penticton’s Mayor, Council, and Staff are extremely knowledgeable and are continuously investing in studies, consultants, resources, and infrastructure to not only meet the needs of our city today, but well into the future. It is therefore perplexing when legislation is being implemented by the province that runs contradictory to what some of these studies say is beneficial for Penticton.
We therefore urge you to reevaluate the current approach to your policy formulation and leadership, ensuring that local governments are once again recognized as integral partners in the decision-making process.
This collaborative approach will not only strengthen British Columbia, but also contribute to the development of policies that are more responsive and effective in addressing the challenges faced by different regions within our beautiful province.
We appreciate your attention to this matter and trust that you will involve local governments in a more meaningful way moving forward as you help shape the future of British Columbia. We thank you for your dedication to public service and look forward to positive developments in this regard.
On a more personal note, we congratulate you on the announcement of your third child and wish you and your family a healthy and happy holiday season.