Waters: Will new council do more than rubber stamp development?

Kelowna voters wanted a change on city council. And they delivered one, big time.

Kelowna voters wanted a change on city council. And they delivered one, big time.

While the race for mayor was a close one, the councillor contest showed just how much many of the 33 per cent of eligible voters who cast a ballots really wanted new faces, and a more right-wing view, at the council table.

They gave former mayor Walter Gray, who narrowly defeated two-term incumbent Sharon Shepherd for the mayor’s job, what he called the “perfect” council. It’s one he feels will show the business and investor world Kelowna is open for business once again.

Despite Gray’s repeated use of the phrase during the campaign, it was never made clear when, or how the city stopped being open for business. And when asked how he planned to open city hall up, he didn’t have a answer. That, he said, will be up to the businesses that step forward to invest in the city.

But that didn’t seem to bother many voters.

The phrase, after all, is a catchy one. And, for a challenger, if you say it enough, you force your incumbent opponent to defend what has been done instead of focusing on what will be done.

It was a strategy that worked for Gray and one he delivered perfectly, staying on message, focusing on the current council instead of Shepherd, and even deflecting controversies from his past when they were brought up.

Presenting himself as a big-picture guy, Gray repeatedly said Kelowna needs to show it is open for business, inferring that’s not the case now.

As the incumbent, Shepherd didn’t have the luxury of simply saying “that’s not the case” and moving on. She had to defend the past as well as promote the future.

But while the mayor, a 15-year council veteran—nine as a councillor and six as mayor—came close to puling that off, a majority of those who served on her council did not.

In the biggest turnover in memory, Kelowna voters sent five new faces to the council chamber, leaving five incumbents on the outside looking in.

In a crowded 40-person field, name recognition helped in this election.

There was never any doubt popular former fire chief Gerry Zimmermann would win a seat, but for others, like political newcomers Mohini Singh and Maxine DeHart, personal popularity played a big part in parlaying their charitable and media reputations into votes.

As for former CHBC News reporter Colin Basran and former school board trustee Gail Given, widow of the late city councillor Brian Given, the flurry of free advertising that their endorsement from the pro-business group FourChange.org afforded them, helped too.

The challenge for the new councillors will be to show they are not simply rubber-stampers of any development proposal that comes their way.

Alistair Waters is the Capital News’ assistant editor.

 

awaters@kelownacapnews.com

 

 

Just Posted

Cherry season has arrived in the Okanagan

Dust off those cherry pie recipes

Sun-Rype Products Ltd. and Mamas for Mamas announce partnership

The partnership will help support mothers in crisis

Foundry Kelowna makes health care impact

More than 1,000 people ages 12 to 24 in the past year have come seeking help

Canadian pet boutique expands to Ontario

The Bone & Biscuit Company looks to leave it’s paw print

Two artists put on divine feminine art show in Kelowna

The show will be on for the month of July

Homeless people living on ‘Surrey Strip’ move into modular housing

BC Housing says 160 homeless people are being moved into temporary Whalley suites from June 19 to 21

Port of Prince Rupert names Shaun Stevenson as new CEO

Stevenson has worked for the port for 21 years as vice president of trade development

Senate officially passes Canada’s marijuana legalization bill

Bill C-45 now moves to royal assent, which is the final step in the legislative process

Fake attempted abduction not funny to B.C. neighbourhood residents

Two teenage boys won’t face criminal charges after scaring girl

New craft brewery location chosen in Kelowna

Rustic Reel Brewing says it will produce beer at new location on Vaughan Avenue

Mosquitoes out in full force already? Blame the weather

But a B.C. mosquito expert says the heat wave will help keep the pests at bay

Man pleads not guilty in 1987 slayings of B.C. couple

William Talbott of SeaTac was arraigned Tuesday in Snohomish County Superior Court

New GOP plan: Hold kids longer at border – but with parents

Move would ease rules that limit how much time minors can be held with their parents

Without a big data strategy, Canadians at risk of being ‘data cows’

Presentation said artificial intelligence could give Facebook and Amazon even more power

Most Read