In Kelowna, there’s nothing as constant as change

2015 saw plenty happening in and around the city and 2016 is expected continue that trend.

From budgets to buildings and refugees to a rail corridor, there were no shortage of news stories in the the Central Okanagan in 2015.

But it was politics, in various forms and at various levels that seemed to dominate.

In Kelowna, the year started with a new mayor and city council—replete with three new councillors and one returning after a three-year absence—and ended with a political upset at the federal level,the likes of which had not been seen in these parts in 47 years.

Liberal upstart Stephen Fuhr ousted long-time Conservative Ron Cannan at the ballot box for the job of Kelowna-Lake Country MP, the first Liberal elected here since 1968.

Sandwiched in between the political start and finish to the year were other stories of note, including a slew of construction with a start to several high-profile building projects such as the new Interior Health building downtown along with the the nearby Innovation Centre, the city’s new police services building on Clement Avenue in the North End, a new parkade between Memorial Arena and the Kelowna Heritage Museum, the expansion of the existing downtown library parkade and the start of building the long-awaited Central Green site.

And then there were the completed projects, such as the $340 million Interior Heart and Surgical Centre at Kelowna General Hospital which opened in the summer and  the expansion of Jim Stuart Park, as well as initial ground work and testing on the site of a new 24-storey hotel slated for the foot of Queensway, construction of which is scheduled to start in the spring.

With all that and the usual array of transportation and infrastructure construction, ongoing services and programs and numerous plans for the future, the staff at city hall were kept petty busy over the last 12 months.

But while the the city’s skyline saw construction cranes popping up, many of the building projects had one thing in common—government funding.

While we heard time and time again that the local economy was back on track, there were many who were not so convinced.

While it’s true it takes confidence in an area to attract the level of government spending that has been seen here in recent years, the private sector did not spend like drunken sailors, as it has in the past, in the city in 2015.

The local economy appears to be coming back but at a slower pace than some of out more energetic civic boosters may portray. But any growth is good and what do they say?…Slow and steady wins the race.

So with a new faces at the political helm both locally and federally—as well as two cabinet ministers and B.C.’s premier representing the city at the provincial level—Kelowna appears well-positioned to move ahead in 2016.

And if next year is anything like 2015 was, there will be plenty of news to be looked back on in 12 months time.

After all, nothing is as constant as change.

Alistair Waters is the assistant editor of the Kelowna Capital News.