Mayor Colin Basran ended his state of the city speech at a Kelowna chamber luncheon Wednesday (Mar. 15) by saying “this could possibly be the last time I get to do this.”
Basran then thanked his parents, who were in attendance.
“I could never do this without the two of you,” said an emotional Basran. “I also want to thank my kids, Nyah and Keenan for their continued curiosity and helping me be better.”
Basran also thanked city staff, council members, and the Kelowna Chamber. Asked if he would run for re-election in October’s municipal elections, the mayor, who has been in office for two terms, was non-committal.
“It’s a conversation I need to have with my kids and parents in particular,” said Basran. “We’ve (council) been so focused on the pandemic and the issues I mentioned in my speech, that I haven’t given it a lot of thought. I need to. But at this point, I have no announcement to let the public know in terms of my political future.”
Basran’s speech covered a lot of ground. From how the city has dealt with the pandemic, the region’s population growth and housing crunch, to social and homelessness issues, improving city infrastructure, and growth in Kelowna’s tech sector.
The mayor pointed out the past two years have been difficult, recent world events have been worrying and there will be challenges to navigate moving forward, but added there is a lot to be optimistic about.
“Emerging from a two-year pandemic, two years of protests, devastating environmental catastrophes, and a shocking military invasion of Ukraine, I know our collective vision developed through Imagine Kelowna is more important than ever.”
Basran said confidence and investment in Kelowna are “unlike anything we’ve ever seen.” That also came with challenges as the city’s population growth led to a housing crunch and its effects on affordability. He pointed out the city is under pressure to keep up with the demand for new housing.
“It is one of the most the most significant threats to our city’s continued prosperity,” said Basran. “But we’ve got this. We have a new Official Community Plan (OCP) and Transportation Master Plan (TMP) and one of the best planning and development approval systems in the province.”
He admitted that affordability is a deterrent to attracting employees from nearly every economic sector, and added it is a major focus for council and staff.
“Our council has made and will continue to make bold decisions to approve housing developments and other investments that create attractive community assets to enhance our quality of life.”
Basran said Kelowna has been a leader in demanding more housing support from the provincial government.
“Over the past few years alone B.C. Housing has opened almost 300 supportive homes for people experiencing or at risk of homelessness in our city. Plus they provided over 200 overnight, emergency shelter spaces this winter.”
The mayor also addressed the one issue that upsets many homeowners every year — property taxes.
“This has often been a criticism as mayor, is property taxes continue to rise every year,” said Basran. When you look at how we compare to other large municipalities in B.C., we are always below average and we’ve always been in the lower one-third in terms of the rates that our residents pay for taxes. When you compare what you get for those tax dollars up against other communities, I would say Kelowna residents are getting a good deal.”