In the end, it wasn’t close.
Kelowna voters elected Colin Basran, 37, the city’s youngest person and first person of colour to win the mayor’s chair, elevating the realtor and former television news reporter from being a one-term city councillor to mayor of the largest city in the B.C. Interior.
According to results released by the City of Kelowna on election night, Basran won the race by a wide margin, 6,376 votes, over his much more experienced main challenger, former mayor Sharon Shepherd, who ran what she described as a “grassroots” budget campaign that did not even have a campaign office.
According to the unofficial results released by the city, with all polls reporting, Basran took 56.7 per cent of the vote, (16,888 votes) easily besting Shepherd, who garnered 35.3 per cent of the vote (10,512 votes).
The six other mayoral candidates,Chuck Hardy (1,143 votes or 3.84 per cent), Kelly Row (548 votes or 1.84 per cent), Glendon Smedley (84 votes or 0.28 per cent), Sam Condy (80 votes or 0.27 per cent) and James Murphy (78 votes or 0.26 per cent finished well back.
In his acceptance speech, Basran thanked voters for “embracing the next generation of leadership,” and vowed to keep the city moving ahead.
Saying that while the mantra of the current city council has been “open for business,” the mayor-elect said he wants the mantra for the next council to be “open for opportunity,” saying that opportunity should not just be thought of as economic.
“It should be social as well,” said Basran, a third generation Canadian of Indo-Candian decent. “I want to see a balanced community.”
Basran, who will be sworn in with the rest of the new council members Dec. 1, will take over from outgoing Mayor Walter Gray, who did not seek re-election.
In his remarks, Basran thanked Gray and departing councillors Robert Hobson and Gerry Zimmermann for teaching him a great deal during his three years with them on council. Neither Hobson nor Zimmermann sought re-election.
He saved his biggest thanks for another departing council colleague, Andre Blanleil.
“This (win) is as much for him as it is for me,” he said, pointing to Blanleil in the crowd of about 200 supporters gathered at the Coast Capri Hotel Saturday night. Later he said he is close with Blanleil, considers him a mentor and consulted him before announcing his plan to seek the mayor’s chair back in April.
Basran said the fact he is the youngest person ever elected mayor in the city, and is the first Indo-Canadian shows Kelowna is more inclusive than ever. His great uncle was elected the first Indo-Canadian mayor in B.C. when he won the mayor’s race in Lillooet in the 1960s.
“I’m proud to be carrying on the tradition,” said Basran.
For Basran, work on his four key platform issues, the economy—creating in his words “jobs for tomorrow” through innovation—providing affordable and attainable housing, looking after the most vulnerable in society and promoting arts and culture will start as soon as he meets with his new council members.
Joining him on council will be returning incumbents, Luke Stack, Gail Given, Maxine DeHart and Mohini Singh, as well as newcomers Brad Seiben, Tracy Gray and Ryan Donn and former city councillor Charlie Hodge.
For Hodge, the election was a redemption of sorts after he was successfully targeted for ouster from council in the 2011 election by a group of local businesspeople calling themselves FourChange. It’s successor, FourKelowna, endorsed Basran, the incumbent councillors who were running, as well as Seiben, Gray, Donn and unsuccessful candidate Laura Thurnheer.
In his victory speech Basran said he wants the city to become known as much for being a place to do business as it is for its recreational opportunities. And that, he said, can be done through economic and social innovation and measures to make the city the best and most livable city of its size in Canada.
Over in West Kelowna, five of the six incumbents running for re-election, including Mayor Doug Findlater and Councillors Duane Ophus, Bryden Winsby, Carol Zanon, and Rick De Jong were re-elected along with newcomer Rusty Ensign and a return of the district’s first mayor and a former district councillor, Rosalind Neis. Incumbent Councillor David Knowles failed to win re-election.
Voter turnout in West Kelowna was just under 32 per cent, according to the district.
In the Board of Education race in Kelowna, incumbents Chris Gorman and Rollie Caccihioni were returned and newcomers Lee-Anne Tiede and Lee Mossman were elected as trustees. In West Kelowna, incumbent trustee Julia Fraser was returned.