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Stuck in the traffic jam in Kelowna, this is in reflection to your editorial of June 30, 06, about leadership foresight, or rather the lack of, in government. Well taken is the example you refer to - the recent Kelowna Mission pool case, the decades old bridge issue and Central Okanagan Bypass plan and healthcare – managed to fail? Unfortunately, these are only a few examples of government’s failure to provide foresight; i.e. timely analysis, planning and intervention.

The forestry, fishery, and First Nations are other examples where decades of interconnected, social, economic and ecological issues, unsolved, are allowed to escalate into adversity causing irreparable harm to society. It is about the Government’s accountability to society, that which is not private sectors’ task, in a democratic governed mixed economy such as Canada. As an analogy, most will agree that airline safety and air traffic control cannot be the responsibility of the private sector Airlines themselves - hence, the standard in government does matter. 

 The Daily Courier is a business with responsibility to its owners and advertisers, but as a newspaper the Daily Courier is also a public trust with an overriding responsibility to the society it serves. Freedom of expression and freedom of the press is the life-blood of democracy and the press/Daily Courier addressing issues in both the private and corporate sector and government is crucial for our Canadian democracy and the economy.

However, holding the government and its municipal corporations accountable to society by investigating, raising questions, addressing issues and allowing free flow of information and debate is the press’s most important task and imperative for society. The editorial raises justified questions about the Government’s standard, role in our economy, and constitutional accountability to society for social and economic development and allied issues that, unsolved, inevitably will become detrimental to society. The editorial is a recognition of the Daily Courier’s responsibility to the community and also marks the importance of local and regional newspaper and why society should support papers that have the editorial freedom to justifiably challenge the social and political establishment and possibly its’ advertisers and customers – it is not easy.

The editorial should spur a broad and vigorous debate in society about foresight and standards in government; i.e. timely analysis, planning and intervention, and about issues not persons. In the Okanagan, the government’s and municipality’s economic development models bolster the positive, and take credit for what is bound to happen, while ignoring socioeconomic and ecological realities, and allowing the issues to, unsolved, escalate in to adversity? For example, particularly in Okanagan, is our taxation system a clear and present danger that contradicts sustainability? Considering that our municipality’s major revenue source is property taxes and allied land and sector development fees, rather than from personal and business income. Is the taxation system fueling excess spending in land development, real-estate and allied low tech sectors and hampering or in fact crowding out investment in more higher technology sustainable economic production and employment?

The problem is that government’s behavior is only one side of the equation, while the attitude and behavior of the members and voters that make up the economy and choose their leadership and government is the other side, therefore addressing one side doesn’t solve the problem. Realizing the behavior in our government institutions, from local to provincial and federal levels in municipal, and First Nations, councils and boards, school boards, healthcare authorities, University Boards of Governors and Senates, etc. etc, reflects not only the level of understanding, but also the moral and ethical value of the society that makes up economies, such as in Kelowna, Okanagan and elsewhere.

Little has changed since the early democracy in ancient Athens, rational and plain ignorance, apathy and smugness in society are still the underlying cause to failure in government and why those who address issues most often are out of luck. Therefore, the apparent failures, for example in the bridge, healthcare, forestry and in particular the First Nations versus Canada, is not only a systemic failure but sort of a democratic failure - why are the voters accepting this? Better government and sustainable allocation of scarce resources, and hence, a better function economy and society, can only come about with a better understanding in society, as produced by private sector research, Universities, and government research institution as in the Pacific Agriculture Research Center in Summerland. This will only emerge if there is a free flow of information that is vigorously discussed in society and facilitated by a free press such as the Daily Courier.

Ultimately your editorial should therefore, foremost raise concerns about what kind of research and education our Universities rejects and prioritizes; decisions that are critical for the present and future generations and also reflects the University’s moral and ethical value.

In the Okanagan, the research and education that the new UBCO prioritizes and rejects should be one of the chief concerns in our society that makes up the economy in Kelowna and the rest of Okanagan and hence be a prime concern for the press and the Daily Courier. 

OISD Kelowna 

August 14, 2006