From Loon Lak Road – From Autumn to Winter in less than a week

Barbara Hendrick's monthly column about life and politics on Loon Lake Road.

The exquisite beauty of nature

The month of October rates right up there with May for being a special season. The clear nights and sunny days at time of full moon around the 18th gave memorable views and night landscapes with a whole palette of fall colours. Even in the moonlight, the golden and orange colours of the leaves stood out against the dark evergreens. This autumn the Loon Lake Road landscape has displayed a remarkable nature experience that could inspire a poet or a painter.

On the night of Nov 1/2, down came our first snowfall and once again the scenery changed. It was wet, heavy snow that clung to every twig and leaf, turning all shrubbery and trees into white lace. I pity all those who live in places where it doesn’t snow and they never experience the charm and sense of promise in the first snow of the year. I still remember the occasion at university when, about this year, the first snow had fallen and I was stopped by a young woman at the door of our residence asking me “was it okay to walk on the snow?” She was from Hong Kong. Snow and frost brings with it bonfires, hot apple juice with a cinnamon stick (have you tried that delicious juice from Desert Hills?), kids playing in the snow, reading in a comfortable chair by the fire and quiet in the forest.

Winter harvest

The snow and slush has effectively ended outdoor gardening for this season.  The garden shovels are put away and snow shovels set out. There are still little ripe tomatoes to be eaten and some of the late ripening tomatoes put away in storage for serving later in the year. Enjoying fresh tomatoes from the garden, fried and on toast for breakfast with snow falling outside – only in Canada? I hope I can get the leaves raked and used as mulch on the garden and there are Jerusalem artichokes and kale to be harvested. The past season was good for gardens even here up in the hills at an altitude of 850 m and Zone 3 cold.

Loon Lake creature

Mysterious waves have been appearing on the surface of Loon Lake, even in the stillest, calmest weather. The waves originate from some activity under the water and spread out toward the ends. Has our little lake creature finally awakened and started growing into something to challenge the Ogopogo? It likely is getting well fed by all that algae. It could be very interesting to find out what all is at the bottom of Loon Lake.

Kamloops’ TNRD power

There was an article recently in The Kamloops Daily News stating that a director appointed from Kamloops is putting himself forward as a candidate for the next chair of TNRD. The chair is chosen by the directors in December and as chair receives $18,000 per year plus gets a higher profile. The Kamloops director sees the position of chair of the TNRD as a convenient platform from which to win election as Mayor of Kamloops.

The six directors from Kamloops and their 25 per cent of the votes give the candidate a big head start. The problem is that City of Kamloops doesn’t use many of the TNRD services except the library and few others, and pays very little toward the cost of operating the TNRD.

In fact, the City of Kamloops doesn’t really need a TNRD as a local level of government; they have a fairly complete system of providing services to their residents. Yet Kamloops-appointed Directors dominate voting on nearly 100 TNRD services for which they do not pay; these services are paid for by rural areas that need the TNRD as a local level of government.

I have no problem with Kamloops  using very few of the TNRD services but I do have a quarrel with Kamloops-appointed directors on the TNRD claiming special status because they say they pay 62 per cent of the budget; that is untrue. The facts are that the taxpayers of Kamloops pay $5.8 million of a total $59.8 million budget – less than 10 per cent of the total budget.

If the voting power were to be based on the percentage of tax money raised in the city or regions or by the value of the taxes paid by individual residential properties, then the distribution of directors and voting powers would be very different than what we see today.

Taxpayers in the electoral areas pay a whopping $12.7 million in taxes to the TNRD;  more than double what Kamloops pays, representing 54 per cent of the total tax money collected to pay for the cost of operating the TNRD yet they have only eight votes – 32 per cent of the votes. I can accept that residents of Kamloops or any other municipality should not pay taxes for services they do not receive; but neither should rural residents.

For paying about 25 per cent of the taxes raised, the City of Kamloops has six Directors out of 25 on the TNRD Board, about 25 per cent of the voting power and on financial issues their voting power increases. The remaining 11 votes (44 per cent) are held by the other municipalities in the region who contribute a little less than 21 per cent of the taxes paid toward operating the TNRD.

Put another way – the incorporated areas, which are not the prime focus of regional government activities, pay through taxation for 46 per cent of the overall cost of regional government services yet wield 68 per cent of the voting power while the rural electoral areas, the prime focus of regional governments, pay 54 per cent of the taxes used to pay for services and have 32 per cent of the voting power. I would suggest, based on the size of the stakeholders input, that a more fair voting distribution would be with the electoral areas having 54 per cent of the voting power on services by the TNRD while the incorporated municipalities have 46 per cent based on services used and paid for.

The six votes from Kamloops have been a major deciding factor in the passing of motions to close rural transfer station and withdrawal of services from rural areas (12 votes against, 13 for); programmes that they do NOT share the cost of. Never has a TNRD service been withdrawn from a small municipality even when it has only a few hundred people and they pay less than $60,000 in taxes for all TNRD services. The TNRD says by “centralizing” these services in the towns the rural residents who pay for it can also access it. If one must travel 50 km or even 100 km to access a so called local service in my opinion that service is not provided at the local level and should not be paid for. The electoral areas clearly subsidize the services made available to the municipalities. Kamloops dominates all decisions made in the TNRD, especially when a Kamloops elected representative is appointed Chair of the TNRD.

This is unfair representation as the rural electorate cannot hold them accountable at the next election and the only reason Kamloops gets away with it is because residents of the Electoral areas haven’t bothered to take the time to be informed about the operations of the TNRD. Also it is time that there were changes made to the legislation that governs regional districts whereby the chair is elected by all and those areas that use the most services and pay the most for them, i.e. the biggest stakeholders, have a fairer share of the voting power. Tell your elected area representative what you think about paying so much for so little service and so little to say about service availability.

Loon Lake Provincial Park

I have spoken with TNRD Director for Area E, Sally Watson, regarding the comment about repurposing Loon Lake Provincial Park. She says she had been approached by a resident of Loon Lake who complained that the long grass at the park was a fire hazard and that people were using the park and leaving garbage.

She has approached the Minister of Environment with the suggestion that the park be reopened as a provincial park possibly operated by a non profit organization. The other option suggested was to sell the land.

To sell this property would be very short sighted as there is almost no useable public land remaining along the roadside shores of Loon Lake. On the other hand a provincial park for family camping and day use picnics would be welcomed by many, including residents of Ashcroft, Cache Creek and Clinton.

Send your comments to the Honourable Minister of Environment, Mary Polak at PO Box 9047, Stn Prov Govt, Victoria BC, V8W 9E2  Your can also send a copy of your comments to your local MLA Jackie Tegart.

Barbara Hendricks