Dix switches stance on proposed South Okanagan national park

A poster promoting the creation of a national park in the South Okanagan.

A poster promoting the creation of a national park in the South Okanagan.

It looks like NDP leader Adrian Dix has decided which side of the fence he’s going to stand on when it comes to a national park in the South Okanagan.

Dix firmed up his support for the proposed 280-square-kilometre national park east of Oliver during a visit to Penticton to cheer-lead for local candidate, Dick Cannings.

“I think there’s a real opportunity for the region. There’s some issues out there that we’ve got to address. Ranchers have raised some issues. We have to talk with them and meet with them and address some of those issues,” Dix was quoted saying in The Penticton Herald.

“We should fully pursue that opportunity.”

The NDP leader said during a visit in February that he wasn’t opposed to a national park, but wasn’t necessarily a supporter either.

Adrian Dix

Adrian Dix

“I’m in favour of listening to the people right now. The idea has a lot of appeal because it brings in investment. There’s some concerns people have laid out,” Dix said to CHBC News.

The region is described by park supporters as “Canada’s only desert ecosystem — one of the highest priorities for conservation in Canada.” They say more than a third of BC’s threatened and endangered species live there, including birds, mammals and plants found nowhere else in Canada.

The B.C. Liberals nixed the park last year, citing a lack of public support.

However, a government poll found about 39 per cent of respondents slightly or strongly supported the proposed park. Only about 19 per cent were slightly or strongly opposed. The other 41 per cent said they neither supported nor opposed the proposal, didn’t know, or needed more information before deciding.

B.C. Environment Minister Terry Lake said 39 per cent support simply wasn’t enough support to justify changes to logging, ranching, hunting and other activities in the area.

“So, the way I look at it is … if you are going to make a huge change to the land base, that’s going to affect peoples’ livelihoods … then I think there should be more than tepid local support,” he was quoted saying in The Globe and Mail in May 2012.

Here’s a FAQ about the park from the group spearheading the lobby.

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