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Farmer support top of mind

Support for farmers, flood victims and dealing with crime are among the top issues for both candidates running for the vacant Area C director seat in this month's municipal election.

Area C encompasses rural Oliver which will soon be the most populated rural area in the Regional District of Okanagan Similkameen, after Area D is split into two areas this month.

Voters will choose between Rick Knodel and Randy Toor on the ballot, who both have previous political experience and are longtime rural Oliver residents. Incumbent director Terry Schafer isn't seeking re-election.

Knodel, a Willowbrook resident who was born and raised in Oliver, has been the Area C alternate director for the past four years, attending RDOS meetings when Schafer is not present. Knodel lost to Schafer by 97 votes in the 2014 election and touted the strong working relationship they have had since.

"Usually the winner doesn't appoint their alternate from the opponent. We didn't know each other prior to that and we've hit it off quite well. I think we've made a pretty awesome team."

Apart from soon being the largest rural area by population, Knodel said he believes Area C is also the largest in gross farm product. He said there's "very heavy responsibilities" ahead.

"I've been very dedicated to farmers... I'm ready to support them in any matters that's needed," he said. "There's definitely a need for expansion of our packinghouse facilities. We need to remove compostable dumping fees, also we need to look at a more cooperative for housing for migrant workers."

He added flood issues are "front and centre" among priorities, after back-to-back years of extreme flooding in the watershed through rural Oliver, and added crime issues need to be addressed further as well.

Toor has lived just south of Oliver for 30 years and owns and operates Desert Hills Estate Winery on Black Sage Road. He also served one term as a councillor in the Town of Oliver, from 2005 to 2008. He said he's motivated to support farmers and small businesses in the region.

"Being in the (Agricultural Land Commission) and dealing with farmers, and myself being in the farming business also... so many hurdles, it's crazy. We're trying to open up a bistro, you wouldn't believe what I had to go through," Toor said. "I wasted a whole year and they just gave me the license now. And the inspector said 'you know, this could've been done a long time ago.' Well why wasn't it?"

He brought up the need to provide more housing for temporary workers as well, calling it a huge issues in the area.

Toor also has been an Auxiliary Constable for the Oliver RCMP for 25 years, and acknowledged the shortage of policing manpower in the area. "There's been a lot of break and enters and a lot of farm thefts. Myself, I've gotten two quads stolen off of my property when they were locked," he said.

As for flood woes, he added he'd like to work with the provincial and federal governments to provide more support for property owners who have endured hardship from flooding.



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