West Kelowna  

WFN leading the way

A study of the Central Okanagan's Westbank First Nation finds the band has used property rights to swing above its weight economically and stimulate prosperity for its members.

By establishing individual property rights, the WFN has become entrepreneurial and prosperous, the Fraser Institute report concludes.

“Westbank has created an environment where band members can create wealth that benefits both the individual and the community,” says Tom Flanagan, a professor emeritus of political science at the University of Calgary, the report's author.

The study finds WFN's system of property law, which closely resembles Canada's, drives band prosperity by allowing members to acquire “allotments” to buy and sell real estate on and off reserve.

WFN real estate ventures include the Okanagan Lake Shopping Centre and WIBCO Construction, which develops residential and commercial properties mainly on reserve lands.

The result? In 2018, WFN independently generated about 63 per cent of its total revenue (with the rest coming from government transfers). That compares to an average of about 36 per cent for all First Nations across Canada.

“Put simply, Westbank is a much more independent and empowered First Nations community because of its prosperity,” Flanagan says.

Westbank property values have skyrocketed, increasing by more than 600 per cent since allotments were established in 2005, to more than $2 billion in 2019.

WFN’s government, which represents roughly 850 band members, also enjoys a budget surplus of about $110 million.

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