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A survey that prove the obvious, that a majority of people in the South Okanagan of British Columbia want a healthy environment and jobs for future generations, - who would not want that. 

 "This is what we are hoping to achieve through our regional growth strategy a truly balanced approach. There is a tremendous amount being done for environmental sustainability”, are worthy remarks to the survey in a recent press release, made of the Regional District of Okanagan Similkameen, and the areas elected (MLA) member of the provincial legislative assembly. The MLA also happens to be the Minister for water, land and air protection in the Provincial Government.   

Assumedly the survey indicates that the majority of the society that makes up the Okanagan economy want the Provincial and Federal government, to meet it’s constitutional and legislative accountability to society, by providing the legislation, policies and services that address the economic, social and ecological issues the Okanagan is facing.  This, by the way, is not the private sector and Municipality corporations task to provide in the Canadian economic system.  Bearing in mind that Canada’s resources are managed within a democratic governed mixed monetary system.  Realizing that social satisfaction and quality of life in any culture and community around the world entirely depend on economic production that allocates and combine resources, into products and services that society needs.  

 It is a no brainier that nature and climate, low interest rates and a well off post-war and baby boomer retirement cohort, and the municipality taxation system is automatically pumping investment in to land, real estate, tourism and resort development. We are transforming the Okanagan in to a semi mono economy, dominated by real estate tourism and allied sectors, crowding out small and midsize goods producing enterprises.  

The pipeline that allows the contamination of the regional and local economy is the Municipalities and the municipal taxation system. Consider that the Provincial government finances their Municipal Corporations with property tax, land development and universal business taxes. Does that system contradict good and precautionary economic, social and environmental planning? By steering the municipality’s priorities to where the easy money is in real-estate tourism and allied sector, and away from other sectors, it is time to change the system,  - research is urgently needed. What is the economic, social and ecological (loss of biodiversity) opportunity cost for society? 

The paramount question for the society in the Okanagan and for Canada at large should be, but it probably never will, what is the opportunity cost for society, - the best forgone alternative?   What social cost will the present and future generations pay for the government’s lack of modern and prudent overall and coordinated economic, social and ecological modeling and planning, in Okanagan?  The cost for, urban sprawl, real estate, wine and resort development, and the destruction of, pocket deserts and bio diversity. Rather than  policies that stimulates a more diversified economy and stimulates investment in value- added agriculture and manufacturing enterprises that can offer better-educated and better-paid steady employment, and less environmental impact.   

As long as the climate is comparably good, the economic climate will automatically fuel investment in to real estate tourism, resort ski hills etc. and these sectors will always be an important for Okanagan.  As long there is obvious lack of good and prudent coordinated analysis and planning in Okanagan, and as long there is an empty piece of land left, and the tax system is not changed, the municipalities will continue to role the red carpet out for land, real estate and tourism developers. Other industries will have less support, in Okanagan and they who address the problem will probability be l out of luck.  In this environment, politics and patronizing and semi-corrupt driven decision-making usurps science and socioeconomic and environmental realities. 

The bridge hodgepodge in Kelowna is a prime example of system failure. The issues and need for a bypass around Kelowna and West- bank has been known for at least thirty years. Unsolved the problem was allowed to escalate into today embarrassing circus. The same underlying systemic problem is what causes failure in the BC’s Forest and Fishery sector and the First Nations.  Decades of unsolved issues in the allocation mechanism in the economy were allowed to escalate into market failure, causing economic, social, and ecological adversity.

 That also raises questions  of shortcoming not only in governments monitoring and intervention methods and system, it should also raise question of Universities role in our economy.  Universities are neither private sector nor government; at least either should not control them. Their role in the economy is to provide the knowledge produced by research to assist the community to address and solve, economic, social and ecological issues. 

The result can measure by the role academically educated people play in society and by their social activism and involvement to solve issues facing society. This reflects the ethical values of the universities.   Where have the University and academic educated people been in Okanagan and British Columbia?  Will  UBCO be a University  that addresses the economic, social and ecological issues that society faces in regional economies at home in Okanagan, as well as globally?  

OISD has proposed in its Interdisciplinary Initiative; that UBCO form the International Institute for Sustainable Regional Economics, go to  IISRE together with Mid Sweden University, and with participation from government and private sectors.  This would also provide a pipeline for business and Cultural development between Northern and Eastern Europe and British Columbia.   A conference between UBCO and a delegation from Mid Sweden University Swedish Government is planned in the summer of 2005.  The outcome will reflect the ethical values of the University of British Columbia, Okanagan, and what kind of University UBCO wants to become.   

Or will political aims that cannot be understood without the use of social science continues to usurp and new ideas and socioeconomic and environmental realities in Okanagan?  


Okanagan January 2005