The authority for the SIR Program is rooted in a 1989 amendment to the province’s Municipal Enabling and Validating Act (MEVA). Section 283 of the statute was added to give a total of five regional districts — the four that participate today, plus the Regional District of Central Kootenay — authority to establish, by bylaw, a sterile insect release program with a single and autonomous board of directors to oversee the program. In that same year, each of the five regional districts named in section 283 adopted its own service establishment bylaw to implement the authority granted under the Act.
In 1990, Cabinet issued the Okanagan-Kootenay Sterile Insect Release Service Regulation (17/90) to provide detail to key parts of section 283. The Regulation set out the methods of cost-recovery and cost-sharing for the Program. The Regulation also gave explicit authority to the SIR Board and its agents to enter onto property for the purpose of releasing sterile insects and, where necessary, order (and even undertake) clean-up efforts to prevent or clear infestation. An additional regulation was issued in 1995 to provide authority for the Board to enter into funding agreements with senior governments and others, and to provide compliance grants (i.e., incentive programs) to property owners and growers.
Between 1995 and 2010, there were only a few additional legislative initiatives at the regional district level — on the whole these resulted in very minor changes to the Program. In 2011, however, amendments to the participating regional districts’ establishing bylaws resulted in significant changes to the Program’s governance structure. For example, the number of voting Board members increased from four to a total of eight.
Additional changes to the legislative framework may occur in the future, either at the regional district level and/or the provincial level. Stakeholders have indicated a desire, specifically, for legislative clarity from the province on the issue of service withdrawal as it relates to municipalities and electoral areas within participating regional districts. As a regional district service, the SIR Program would appear to be subject to the service review and withdrawal provisions of the Local Government Act. The nature of the Program, on the other hand, would appear to preclude the departure of any single jurisdiction without the agreement of all participants and/or significant guarantees. The risk of re-infestation in a departing jurisdiction, and the implications of such re-infestation for remaining jurisdictions, would undermine the efficacy of the entire service.
It is worth noting that the province was asked in 2007 for guidance on the proposed withdrawal from the Program by the Regional District of Columbia Kootenay. The province directed the Program participants to negotiate the matter themselves, and noted that the withdrawal of one regional district required the agreement of all participating regional districts.
In dealing with the issue of withdrawal by a municipality or electoral area, the province may take a similar approach and direct the Program participants to reach their own agreement.