Kelowna Mayor Colin Basran delivering his annual State of the City address to the Kelowna Chamber of Commerce earlier this year. —Image: Alistair Waters/Capital News

Kelowna mayor says he’ll run on his record in election despite criticism from challenger

Colin Basran reels off a long list of accomplishments to refute questions about his leadership

Kelowna mayor Colin Basran says he’s ready to run on his record, as he faces what could be a stiff challenge in the upcoming civic election from a close friend who is now publicly questioning his leadership over the last four years.

On Wednesday, former Kelowna Chamber of Commerce president Tom Dyas announced he will run against Basran in the Oct. 20 civic election. Basran is seeking a second term as mayor.

During his announcement, Dyas repeatedly said better leadership is needed at city hall.

“We can do better,” said Dyas.

Basran, currently at the Union of B.C. Municipalities Convention in Whistler, hit back Thursday reeling off a long list of achievements under his leadership during the last four years at city hall including:

• Kelowna having one of the strongest municipal economies in the country

• Having the best development year in the city’s history last year, and on pace to surpass that this year

• Seeing continuous record-breaking years for passengers at the Kelowna International Airport and now being on-pace to see two million passengers this year

• “Unprecedented” investment in the downtown core

• Being named the best place in B.C. to start a company and be an entrepreneur by the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, and one of the most fiscally responsible cities in Canada

• Recipient of $150 million in senior government grants over the last four years, including a $60 million grant to improve the water system in the South East Kelowna

• Approval of more than 3,000 new rental units over the last four years

• Bringing a majority of all social agencies, as well as community and business groups, together to support the Journey Home Strategy to address homelessness, a report he said will not sit on a shelf, but is now being implemented

• The city’s participation in helping settle a transit strike few years ago

• Making Kelowna a more inclusive and accepting community for people of all genders, faiths, races and sexual orientations

• Helping develop a healthy and growing arts and culture scene in the city

• Transportation improvements, including the recently opened John Hindle Drive and soon-to-open paved Rail Trail

• Strengthened relationships with Okanagan College, UBC Okanagan and Interior Health

“And I could go on,” said Basran. “I’m proud of the leadership I’ve provided.”

He said he was very surprised someone he considered a close friend would run against him for mayor, but said he intends to run a positive campaign, adding if Dyas’s entry into the race helps further debate on the issues, all the better.

Dyas and Basran have been close in the past, and have travelled together both as representatives of the city and privately. Both men went on holiday to New York last year to celebrate Basran’s 40th birthday.

Dyas said Basran was “taken aback” when he learned of Dyas’s mayoral challenge. But, he said, despite that he hoped the two could remain friends.

As for Basran, he said he was was “blindsided” by the move. And he rejected Dyas’s contention city staff require better leadership than they are currently getting from him and the current city council.

He described the relationship between council and city staff as a “good working relationship.”

“But council sets the objectives for staff to follow,” he said.

Dyas also cited poor communication and a lack of transparency from the current council in announcing his mayoral run. Basran refuted that, citing inclusion of many local organizations in the Journey Home Strategy as just one an example of the city desire to talk to, and listen to, the public.

Turning away from the election, Basran said he was happy with the reception he received from the B.C. ministers of health, poverty reduction and municipal affairs and housing in Whistler Wednesday at the UBCM convention as he continued to seek provincial support, and funding, for initiatives called for in the Journey Home Strategy.

He said it was clear the province supports what the city is doing addressing homelessness and said he was told it should serve as an example for other B.C. communities to follow.

As for the funding wants to help provide the supportive housing and support services called for by the strategy, Basran said he is very optimistic Victoria will help come through with money.

The city is currently working with B.C. housing on a number of social housing projects, with 100 units expected to be completed early next year.

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