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The future of the Sterile Insect Release Program (SIR) in the Okanagan, British Columbia.

The tax funded SIR program and its codling moth rearing facility in Osoyoos and administration in Vernon, is reaching the sunset for its mandate in 2005, to an estimated total cost of approximately $50 million. 

SIR facilitates tax transfers into local economies in Osoyoos and in Vernon where the Northern Okanagan Regional District does the administration and elsewhere where the program operates.   If they haven’t already, the area MP, MLA, Councilors and Regional Directors should prepare for being put under pressure to support further tax funding to SIR, from SIR staff who want to keep their jobs and other interest groups that benefit from the tax transfers.   

With a neo-liberal government in office in Victoria, tax transfers to followers in the private sector, under the label of 3P private public partnerships or privatization, could possibly be in the pipeline along the line demonstrated with BC Hydro, the Coquihalla Highway, healthcare, and the winter Olympics.   Realizing resources and tax cannot be used in one direction without that being on the expense of other aims in the community.  Therefore, in the SIR case, the important question for the members of the community is, does the SIR program meet the standards for government intervention and use of tax in a democratic governed mixed economic system such as Canada.  If not, the tax transfer to SIR should end.  If the SIR program meets the standards then the transfers should continue.  

Forest Renewal BC, Fast Ferries, and regionalization of healthcare, are examples where the senior governments analysis, monitoring, and intervention failed to meet the standards for government intervention and use of tax, in a mixed economy as Canada.   A similar failure at the local government level is Osoyoos Town Council’s autocratic and arbitrary termination of its contract with the local Camber of Commerce without a prudent cost benefit analysis.  They evicted the Chamber from the building the Chamber had contributed to build and funneled the contract over to a special interest group operating the OBCDC and Destination Osoyoos Corporation, set up to facilitate tax transfers.  (Coincidently, Osoyoos is where SIR’s rearing facility is located, and a director of the OBCDC and Destination Osoyoos Corporation happens to be working for SIR.) 

The above are examples of government failure to meet basic standards for government intervention and tax transfers in a democratic governed mixed economic system.  These interventions also fail to meet the standard established by the Canadian constitution that states:  “government is committed to furthering economic development to reduce disparity in opportunities”.  Obviously, Forest Renewal BC, the Fast Ferry case, and the Town of Osoyoos intervention, did not further economic development to reduce disparity in opportunities.  Instead they hampered economic development and increased disparity in opportunities.  Why are the members of the community accepting this?   

Few will today dispute that the use of pesticides has an adverse impact on the ecology.  The amount of pesticide left on fresh fruit and vegetables and also accumulating in the snow pack and groundwater is an increasing concern, particularly in a sensitive ecological system such as the Okanagan Valley.  In the same way that excessive use of antibiotics and antiviral drugs encourages microbes to become drug resistant through mutation, use of insecticides helps insects including mosquitoes that spread malaria and West Nile virus to develop resistance to insecticide.   

Targeting codling moths that destroy apples and pears, SIR offers an alternative method to pesticides that perhaps could be applied to fight other insects and subsequently even disease.  In those perspectives, SIR objectives appear worthy, but so did the failed Forest Renewal BC, Fast Ferries, and regionalization of healthcare, and recently the Community Charter Act that was passed into law without prudent analysis.  When will the voters react and demand that the government meet its role in the economy and its accountability to society, and implement modern analysis and intervention methods.

Broadly that means providing such service the private sector fail to provide or which can never be the private sectors role to provide in a mixed economy as Canada’s.  Foremost a government that intervene before decades of old problem unsolved escalates in to adversity, as in the forest sectors, including the trade dispute with US, and the forest fire, fishery, and healthcare and on local level the bridge and traffic problem in Kelowna.  Can we continue to allow decades of problem in the economy to unsolved escalate in to adversity?   

In the SIR case, the members of the community, voters and taxpayers should expect a prudent analysis into whether or not SIR meets the standard for government intervention and the use of tax.  If an unbiased analysis shows the SIR program meets the standard for government intervention, and is well managed, then the community and the taxpayer should expect the government to continue its tax transfers to SIR and to the fruit industry.  Contrarily, if a prudent natural science and economic analysis shows SIR doesn’t meet the standards, then the community must expect the government to leave it to the fruit industry and private sector to solve their problems without tax transfers.   

November 11, 2003