MP Report for Okanagan-Coquihalla: Around the riding, a new mine, land exchange and local government election
Although the House of Commons is back in session this week, I greatly enjoyed the past seven days back in the riding of Okanagan- Coquihalla during last week's Parliamentary break. While some believe that Members of Parliament only work when the house is in session the reality is that breaks provide for an opportunity to travel to communities within our ridings and meet directly with taxpayers to hear from citizens firsthand. For me, this is a very important part of being your Member of Parliament and to ensure that the work we are doing in Ottawa will be of benefit here in our region and elsewhere across our great country.
One of the highlights from last week was a visit to an under construction Silver Mine near the community of Merritt. While not a large mine, currently close to a dozen workers are involved in the assembly of roughly six million dollars worth of milling equipment. When this mine is up and running the workforce will increase to over sixty people and will represent roughly a $15 million dollar annual investment into the local Merritt economy. What is also exciting about this new mine is that roughly 30% of the workforce will be from the first nation's community. Merritt has long been a resource based region and it is encouraging to see new investment creating well paying jobs and I wish the mine operators full success in this new operations.
In West Kelowna one of the concerns that I have heard from many citizens pertains to a possible land exchange between the Provincial Government and the Westbank First Nation. While it is important to recognize that this is an issue the ultimately the Provincial Government maintains jurisdiction over, there is some general information I can pass on with respect to the process from the perspective of the Ministry of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development. In the event that a First Nations Government passed a band council resolution (BCR) formally requesting an addition to reserve (ATR) this would create the need for an environmental site assessment (ESA) As part of this process, consultation with local government would occur. It is also important to recognize that the Westbank First Nation is self-governing and has the authority and mandate to make decisions on behalf of the membership and this includes entering into agreements with the British Columbia provincial government.
Before I close I would like to pass on wishes of good luck to all candidates running in next weekend's local government elections and also I would like to encourage taxpayers to vote for the candidates you feel can best represent you. It was only three years ago that I was elected to city council and can say from experience that every vote and every decision matters. I attended several all candidates forums in the past week and found many candidates that are well informed on local issues and are ready to serve. Please take the time to vote.
Dan Albas is the Member of Parliament for Okanagan- Coquihalla and can be contacted at email@example.com
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Dan Albas is the Member of Parliament elect for Central Okanagan-Similkameen-Nicola.