Mayoral and council candidates for the city of West Kelowna sat down in the Lion’s Hall Sunday (Oct. 2) to share their thoughts and ideas with the community.
Hosted by the Greater Westside Board of Trade, all but one candidate were present for the two-hour forum.
Candidates were posed questions emailed in by members of the community and were each allowed 60 seconds to get their point across.
Hot topics of the forum included:
Improving Main Street
Andrew Kwaczynski (mayoral): “Public transport should be available to anyone at a very reasonable rate. Not just once a day or twice a day that buses are running, they should run every few minutes. That will help. Second, we need to talk to our neighbours in Kelowna, because one of the main problems is when you pass over the bridge there is lights. Three lights within just a hundred metres which is just absolutely insane.”
John S. Martin: “We need to attract businesses that draw and entertain the individuals that are using that area. That will help build that area and give it more of a showcase type of area for the residents that are walking and using that area. They need to mill about more and stay in the area, so we need to formulate some attractions such as our museum which is in that area. Make it more viable and more attractive to go to that museum and use that facility, which is under used.”
Sylvia Dawn: “It’s the saddest, ugliest place you’d want to visit. There’s nothing appealing about it at all. I think the city needs to address that and get things done, not just talk about it. We need an art gallery. We have a lot of talented artists here who have no place to display their artwork. We could have a live theatre here in the same building.”
Changes, additions to the city
Garrett Millsap: “We don’t have an arts and culture scene here in West Kelowna. We need to really enforce recreation, arts, and culture with families. It’s so crucial in today’s time that we give our kids something to do. I hear from parents all the time, ‘Our kids have nothing to do in West Kelowna. We’re going to Kelowna to use their facilities. We need facilities for our children in West Kelowna. If we don’t have facilities for our children in West Kelowna we’re never going to end the cycle of homelessness and drug addiction, because they’re going to simply fall through the cracks. They’re not going to have anything to do, they’re going to be bored, and when kids are bored they find bad things to do.”
Gord Milsom (mayoral): “We need to stand up more for our low-income seniors. We need to do more for them particularly in two areas. One is housing. In our community there is only 400 units of subsidized housing provided primarily by BC Housing. If you look at Burnaby or Penticton, they have over 2,000 units. It’s just not right. We need to work with BC Housing, with non-profit associations and develop opportunities for subsidized housing for our low income seniors. The rent is just way too high… The other area is to help them with transportation. Getting to medical appointments, just moving around town, some cannot afford to take a taxi. Westside Health Network is a great organization, but they can only help in so many ways.”
Rick de Jong: “I think the biggest challenge we are wrestling with, that we need to work with is managing growth as we develop as a community. We heard comments about the Official Community Plan. The current council has been working on this Official Community Plan, but it’s your new council that will be bringing that Official Community Plan to adoption. So, it’s important who you choose and how you feel they align, because this growth that we are experiencing as a community impacts every single one of us. It impacts everything from housing affordability for a young couple trying to buy their first home to that senior trying to downsize and afford that next home on a fixed income, it impacts liveability from the point of view of amenities that make this community so wonderful to live and play and work in.”
Vandalism and Crime
Bryden Winsby: “We’re dealing here of course with something that primarily is the purview of the provincial and federal governments. Do we have a role to play as a city? Of course we do, but we have to understand clearly the extent of the problem here and be able to identify possible solutions. But we have to go after the people who can fund it and legislate it properly. One example I think is of how we handle prolific offenders. It’s the long time guys, the people who just don’t get it and are allowed back on the street. That to me is probably the biggest issue.”
Tasha Da Silva: “This is a symptom of a bigger problem. Vandalism is often people with mental health, complex additions, abusive backgrounds, and homelessness; it’s a combination of that. A lot of it has to do with advocacy at a provincial level. We need to make our voices heard at a provincial level to get more hours at the urgent care centre on our side of the bridge. We need more programs in place for those people that really need it. We also need to advocate for more RCMP officers. I believe for us to be on par with the rest of Canada we should be at about 70 and we’re at 31.”
Stephen Johnston: “One of the things that’s probably not well known is that we have a Community Situation Table. There’s a hub of organizations, whether it be critical care providers, RCMP, bylaw. They meet together on a regular basis to discuss these complex cases, because there are vulnerable individuals in our community that contribute to a rise in crime and vandalism… I really do believe there is no end to the shelters or the transitional housing developments that we could build to keep up with the problem. The province seems to be keen on moving band-aid solutions. I look at these vulnerable people on the street and I think how all of them once sat in classrooms in elementary school or high school. What are we doing to identify and help solve the problem?”
Anthony Bastiaanssen: “We need to attract and incentivize the kind of development we want to see. If we have only the highest and best available for developers they’re going to look to make the most money possible, and if we don’t provide any incentives to build that affordable housing it’s not going to happen. The city needs to use the tools that are available to provide appropriate incentives to encourage and attract the development that we need.”
Jason Friesen: “We need to make sure that we have attainable housing. We as council do have an opportunity to incentivize and mandate different types of housing. We have the opportunity to incentivize densification if a developer is willing to be below market rent as well as market rent housing… We do need to attract the developers as we’ve said that are wanting to develop the types of housing the we need. We have a new housing needs assessment, it’s in our hands. Now we need an action plan.”
Tom Groat: “We had in April our West Kelowna Housing Needs Assessment report and I think that is a guiding tool for us to identify where the demand is and address that. I think securing federal funding through things like rapid housing initiatives, provincial funding such as the BC Supportive Housing Fund will go a long ways in creating a more healthy housing situation in West Kelowna.”
Transportation and Infrastructure
Rusty Ensign: “I think the quickest, cheapest fix is probably the best thing that we could lobby the province for first. That would be an alternating three-lane, two-lane bridge. And working in conjunction with the city of Kelowna to get rid of the light at Abbott Street so that there’s free-flowing traffic through Kelowna. It’s not just us it affects, it’s everybody up and down this valley, so we need to work in conjunction with all the other municipalities in the valley to lobby the province to do that.”
Carol Zanon: “I want to address this issue in two parts. One is travel out of the municipality and into Kelowna or south and travel within the community. For travel outside the community, I’ve already spoken about some of those things, but to reiterate we have to improve the situation with the couplet, that has to be looked at. We have to have a serious sit down with the province. We’re developing our new OCP and Transportation Master Plan will be on that for the new council to finalize. Get those 200 changes fixed up and get those traffic lights straightened out going through Kelowna.”
Jasmine Jane Naaykens was not in attendance.