LOST IN THE somewhat muted excitement of the elections for City councils here in Kamloops and across B.C. is the race for regional directors for the electoral areas of the Thompson Nicola Regional District, and the other 27 regional districts across B.C.
Regional districts provide services across the region such as libraries, emergency services and land use planning.
The TNRD spans from Blue River in the North to Lytton and Merritt in the South. Areas of the southern Cariboo from Cache Creek to 70 Mile House mark its western border, while Chase is its eastern limit.
Across this vast area, decisions are made that affect us all. And those decisions are made by our elected representatives on the TNRD board.
The Thompson Nicola Regional District is made up of elected representatives from 10 unincorporated areas of the region, plus representatives from each of the municipal councils in the TNRD, such as Chase, Clearwater and Clinton. Only Kamloops, with its much larger population, has multiple seats on the TNRD board.
The TNRD board often toils in obscurity. In the past, both radio and print media regularly covered TNRD board meetings. But with the gutting of local media, there is often no media at TNRD meetings for weeks at a time to cover the decisions of the regional government.
Pity, since there is much about regional government that is worth knowing more about.
When Kamloops hosted thousands of wild fire evacuees last summer, it was the TNRD that coordinated the outstanding emergency response.
The issue of bio-solids on agricultural lands has been dealt with repeatedly at the TNRD table, as well as other regional district boards. While it comes up within Kamloops city limits as well, without a strong regional government sparsely populated rural areas would be very vulnerable to having their lands used as unsupervised dumping grounds.
Kamloops is a city that is not surrounded by endless rural sprawl. This is no accident. The City of Kamloops and the TNRD have an agreement about development on the periphery of the city. This is good news for Kamloops as it allows better control of growth. Without the TNRD board’s guidance there could have been mini-malls and ranchette suburbs from Kamloops to Chase.
The real estate lobby and construction industry in Kamloops are beating their drums louder and louder about the lack of land for development. This will put added pressure to develop lands on the periphery of the city. The region needs a strong board to guide the growth around Kamloops.
The residents of the TNRD were facing the prospect of less fire protection, as rural fire halls tried to meet ever increasing regulations and costs. First responder services were equally strapped. The importance of rural services hits home to city dwellers when small fires turn into raging forest fires, and highway accidents take another life. It was the TNRD that gave small communities like McLure and Green Lake a way to provide emergency services.
The fires that we have faced summer after summer hit home the importance of emergency services both to deal with the immediate threats, but also to serve people affected.
Which brings us to the upcoming local government elections, which are not just for mayors and councils, but also for electoral area regional directors. Many of the electoral area regional directors have been on the TNRD board for a decade or more, yet I doubt many outside their immediate electoral area could name them.
The candidates are sparse for the upcoming electoral area elections in the TNRD. As sparse as the news coverage the TNRD receives. Two of the incumbents, Herb Graham, director for electoral area N, and Mel Rothenburger, director for electoral area P, faced no competition and will be elected by acclamation.
Six other incumbents face only one or two other candidates in their electoral area races. Even for the two electoral areas where there is no incumbent running, there are only two or three candidates running in each of the two areas.
Regional governments matter. They make decisions that don’t just affect rural residents, but people in towns and cities too. Here’s hoping the people living in the rural electoral areas of the TNRD will challenge the candidates to debate the issues that matter.
Here’s hoping in the brief window of the election, the local media picks up its game covering the TNRD. Matters from land use, to fire protection, to bio-solids and more need to be discussed during this election for the new TNRD board.
Nancy Bepple is a former city councillor of Kamloops with a strong interest in community building projects.