Nelson mayor returns from Columbia River Treaty talks

Deb Kozak met with federal ministers during Ottawa trip

When it comes time to renegotiate the Columbia River Treaty, Nelson Mayor Deb Kozak feels it’s crucial that whoever gets named as the provincial minister overseeing the process be chosen from among the residents of the basin itself.

“At this point in time local governments are maintaining close contact with the province and anxiously awaiting to see who the provincial government will appoint as the minister to oversee this process,” Kozak told the Star, following a June 1 trip to Ottawa.

“We feel it’s really important that it’s someone from the basin, ideally someone who lived here and knows the impacts of the dams and the history of the Columbia River Treaty.”

Nearby that means MLAs Katrine Conroy and Michelle Mungall could be considered for the post, but Kozak said they’re not “naming names” when it comes to who they would prefer to take the role. As long as they’re local, she’ll be happy.

“In the last government Bill Bennett was our minister in charge of this file, and he was very supportive of local governments. We would like that relationship to continue. We want to make sure there’s continuous communication from the local to the provincial to the federal level.”

And when she visited Ottawa with RDCK chair Karen Hamling, she was once again pleased by the welcome she received from the federal ministers. They met with Director of Global Affairs Chris Wilkie and two other policy analysts.

There wasn’t much of an update on the Treaty’s progress — neither Canada nor the U.S. has made any moves towards opening negotiations — but there was useful dialogue. Kozak noted they were primarily interested in the uncertainty surrounding the recent provincial election, which could affect how things move ahead.

Kozak sees reason for hope.

“There are so many people who have worked together for so many years. There are policy analysts on either side who have worked together, and this treaty has worked well for both countries for a long time,” she said.

However, she feels it’s time for Canada to get a better deal.

“Historically we’re the ones who have sacrificed and continue to sacrifice for the good of both countries, so now it’s time, whatever happens going into the future, that the concerns of Columbia Basin residents are taken into consideration.”

Kozak feels the community has come a long way since the treaty was signed, and the new one should reflect that.

“The first go-around the local governments weren’t part of the picture at all, so to come full circle and now have local governments involved in deciding what’s important and having a say in the future of the treaty, is incredible,” she said.

“We do things in a different way now. We consult people, include people, and the people who live here are a huge source of knowledge and that should not go untapped.”

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Nelson Mayor Deb Kozak posted photos of the original Columbia River Treaty documents on Facebook while visiting Ottawa earlier this month. Web photo

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