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Five Chiefs

One year ago, the five local First Nation Communities and the Province signed the Nicola Watershed Pilot Memorandum of Understanding.

The Nicola Watershed Pilot is an agreement between the Province and the Nicola Chiefs to explore opportunities to engage governments and stakeholders in the management of water in the Nicola watershed, which in recent years has experienced complex water management issues related to changes in water quality, water quantity and the health of aquatic ecosystems.

When the agreement was signed last March Upper Nicola's Harvey McLeod spoke to Q101 about why he believes the agreement is the first step towards a truly collaborative approach to addressing said issues.

"I see this partnership as having a huge impact on our relationship with the Province, but more importantly, for ourselves as Indigenous peoples as we become one with our land again. And how will I know the road we're building is going to lead us down a better path? What are the milestones that we can look to? For the long-term, it's full co-operation, full involvement, full inclusion in decision-making on how we regulate, and how we take care of the water together. There will be an understanding on both sides,” said McLeod. 

The primary focus of the Nicola Watershed Pilot is addressing priority water issues. 

Last week the project held an open house with Provincial Ministers, the five Chiefs and the general public engaging in discussion related to a variety of water issues faced in the Nicola Valley.

Lower Nicola Band Chief Aaron Sumexheltza spoke to Q101 about what has taken place since they singed on the dotted line a year ago and what the next steps for the project are.

“Since then the Province and the five bands have been working really hard on formalizing the relationship between the government and the first nations,” said Chief Sumexhelta. “Looking at how this pilot is going to actually move forward with specifics in this province. We still have work to do, but we’ve built a stronger relationship with the province and over the coming months we will be having more dialogue. And really figuring out what issues we want to tackle first that are off concern to all of use here in the Nicola Valley.”

Chief Sumexheltza also spoke to how the whole community must come together to face the issues surrounding water in the Nicola Valley.

“I think through engagement of communities and citizens from here in Merritt and local first nations, I think if we continue to have dialogue with people that actually live here, we’ll be able to come up solutions that will move us in the right direction with our water,” said Chief Sumexheltza. “Whether you’re a first nations person or not, whether you’re a rancher, farmer or just live in town, water is important to all of us. If we want to move forward in a good way, we all need to be able to contribute and voice our concerns so we can make decisions for the benefit of all of us.”


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City hall

During the last regular council meeting, Merritt City Council voted in favour of moving forward with the Tourism Asset Mapping Inventory. The information for the inventory was collected through public consultation late last year.

While at council the initiative seemed to get quite convoluted, the city’s Economic Development and Tourism Manager Will George explained the initiative to be actually quite simple.

“It is part of the economic development action plan,” said George. “We’ve hired a consultant to create the inventory itself. Someone will be able to look through this and see a list of all the accommodations, the number of rooms and beds. Looking at the sporting, event and meeting facilities.”

George mentioned that it will be a huge asset to city staff to assist with drawing new businesses and events to Merritt.

The inventory once complete stands to be a huge benefit to the community in allowing people and companies alike to easily lookup what Merritt has to offer and maybe what they have to offer Merritt.

“We are not saying that there is one particular tourism business that we’re trying to attract. We’re saying this is where we are, then when we have those individual conversations, then we can see exactly the audience we’re talking to, the venue we’re at and present out the information that’s tailored to them,” said George.

George traded hats from his tourism perch to economic development to speak to the inventory drawing in future business to the city.

“The inventory will be used as a resource that the city can send to businesses that are looking to relocate to Merritt, in order to show what the niche tourism business market are in Merritt,” said George.

George expects the inventory to be up and available in the coming days.


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School District 58 Nicola-Similkameen made a change to procedure this year by opening French immersion enrollment earlier and they’re reaping the rewards. Assistant Superintendent Jameel Aziz spoke to current state of enrollment in the kindergarten program.

“We changed this year our registration process for French Immersion kindergarten. We went to a little bit earlier. We have 31 spaces available for French immersion kindergarten and I believe we have 25 or 26 current registrants.” 

Aziz does expect the remaining spots for September to be filled in do-course. But did mentioned a few of the problems the board is facing.

“Some people don’t necessarily connect to the typical media pieces. They may not listen to the local radio, may not engage in reading the local newspaper and they may not go to our website. And if you’re a brand-new parent you may not even know that you’re suppose to access those pieces,” said Aziz. “We’re fairly confident that Collettville will be full.”

Superintendent Stephen McNiven did mention that they plan to continue their new format of opening the French Immersion enrollment prior to the general enrollment.

Registration for general kindergarten is also now open.


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Earlier this year, the Merritt City Council unanimously approved a recommendation to apply for a pair of grants; the B.C Provincial Nominee Entrepreneur Immigration Regional Pilot and the Rural and Northern Immigration Pilot. On Thursday the city found out it had been successful in its application.

The pilot program is designed to make it easier for foreign investors to come to Canada and more specifically to rural communities.

To enrol in the pilot, communities must have a population of fewer than 75,000 and be located 30 kilometres away from a municipality of more than 75,000. They must also identify three priority economic development sectors.

Successful applicants must maintain a minimum of 51% ownership (local partnerships are permitted) of their business and live in the community. They must also have more than three years of experience as an active business owner or more than four years as a senior manager within the last five years.

Interested foreign entrepreneurs are required to visit the community and present their business idea to make sure their business plan is consistent with the community's economic priorities.

Applicants to the B.C. Provincial Nominee Program Entrepreneur Immigration Regional Pilot must have a personal net worth of $300,000, make a minimum investment of $100,000 in a new business and create one new job.

“If we see a huge amount of business kicking tires. We will prioritize the businesses that are investing more in our local economy and the businesses that are providing more local employment over the ones coming in and just meeting those bare minimum requirements,” said Will George, Economic Development and Tourism Manager for the city of Merritt.

Community Futures here in Merritt is leading the charge on the programs and Business Analyst Manuel Olguin spoke about the pilot projects.

“The Province is launching a different pilot program targeting rural communities such as Merritt,” said Olguin. “The original program was an option for entrepreneurs to establish or buy a business anywhere in B.C. Now the pilot program is an option for entrepreneurs from other countries to come to rural communities.”

With Merritt being added to the list of possible locations for interested immigrant investors, George spoke to Q101 about the benefits to the community.

“What we’ve been told by the BC PNP program is that we should be receiving quite a few inquires and even before it was announced we received quite a few from foreign entrepreneurs looking to see what Merritt’s about and the close proximity to larger market,” said George.

Merritt is one of only two cities in the program with a close proximity to Vancouver. Due to this fact George expects the city will be inundated with potential new investors.


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During the most recent School district meeting, the board approved a pair of automated external defibrillators to be placed in Merritt and Princeton Secondary Schools. School district chair Gordon Comeau spoke to why the matter was being brought forward.

“It stems from the fact that now two different schools have had to use them, one was in the Okanagan which made the news,” said Comeau. “So, the question was do we have it in our schools and if we don’t, should we look at putting them in our schools.”

Trustee Brian Jespen was fully behind the initiative.

“I’m in favour of them, they’re in my workplace they’re in the arena, they’re everywhere, they’re in malls. So, I’m in favour of it,” said Jespen. “I’ll make a motion that we put one in each high school to start. And then get readback from staff.”

Superintendent Steve McNiven informed the board the prices of the AED’s are $1800 per unit, which has a seven-year life span. There are also added expenses of replacement batteries every four years and new pads every two or three years.

Training of the staff was also discussed.

Although Jespen did note that the AED’s are essentially fool proof. Current AED’s speak to the user and have the ability to make the decision of whether a person should be shocked on its own by reading the persons vitals.

The board did vote unanimously to add the AED’s to the two high schools in the district. The board also will be gathering more information from the implementation of the two AED’s to decide if further schools will be provided with one.          


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