Homeless strategy, living wage topics of final Kelowna candidate forum

The all candidates forum was held Wednesday night at the Rutland Centennial Hall

In an election forum that focused on early childhood development and this city’s poverty, the current council’s efforts were mostly supported by all but one of 16 candidates in attendance, who levied a harsh criticism.

Kevin Bond said he was “disgusted” by Kelowna’s Journey Home Housing Strategy, during the Wednesday night all candidates forum in Rutland. He didn’t offer reasons why.

The other 15 council candidates who participated in the forum Wednesday night at the Centennial Hall, showed support for the strategy that aims to tackle homelessness, although they too had some thoughts on how to improve the situation.

The timeframe, the costs, and the reach were some of the issues to arise.

Mayoral candidate Tom Dyas said it works in the long term, but a short-term initiative is needed to close the “gap” in dealing with homelessness.

Councillor candidate Gord Lovegrove said the strategy needs to be refined, but it’s a start.

READ MORE: Kelowna’s strategy to address homelessness making headway says city

“I’m concerned about its costs, some aspects of it can be streamlined, bringing in volunteers and social services people that we have in the community… and yes, let’s start yesterday,” said councillor candidate Craig Hostland.

Incumbent Mohini Singh said the homelessness situation is “not a Kelowna problem, it’s a Canadian problem.”

Kelowna resident and early childhood educator Valene Johnson attended the forum, hoping to see candidates address the need for educators in the community.

“Working directly with children and families is a big topic these days, so I was hoping the councillor candidates and mayoral candidates would take it seriously. There’s been a lot of talk in the community with big issues such as homelessness because it’s a visible topic, which is an important topic, but childcare is also an important topic, the lack of spaces out there and affordable spaces is a very wide problem,” she said.

Johnson was happy to hear councillor candidate Loyal Wooldridge discuss a living wage for educators because of the employee shortage.

“Early childhood education has not been regarded as a typical money making career and we know that going into it, and we don’t have a union to fight on our behalf, so to have a municipal government talk about that is really important and I think Loyal touched on it when he said people need to be paid a living wage,” she said.

RELATED: Lake Country mom fails to find infant childcare after 2 years of searching

Johnson said the living wage could be a good start.

Wooldridge said he would support $10 a day child daycare plan, daycare operators need to be paid more, and placing daycares in neighbourhoods around the community would allow parents to have easier access to them.

When asked if candidates would consider adopting a living wage policy for municipal staff and contract employees, incumbent Mayor Colin Basran said most of city staff is already making a living wage so that policy is not needed at this time.

Candidates also answered a question about reducing the rising vulnerability of children in the city.

Council candidate Dustin Sargent said to educate parents to create positive role models for children, while Lovegrove wants to push co-housing, rental housing and a community transportation U-Pass which will allow parents to have more disposal income.

Basran mentioned the city’s Healthy Housing Strategy and well as providing developers with tax break incentives to build rental housing.

The full list of participating candidates include: Sergent, Lovegrove, Bond, Basran, councillor candidate Lindsay Bell, councillor candidate Jeff Piattelli, mayoral candidate Bob Schewe, incumbent councilor Brad Sieban, Woodgrove, Dyas, councillor candidate Mark Boyer, incumbent councillor Luke Stack, Hostland, incumbent councilor Ryan Donn, Singh and mayoral candidate Bobby Kennedy.

The event was hosted by the BC Poverty Reduction Coalition and Central Okanagan Early Years Partnership the focus on the forum was on poverty and early childhood development.

The forum is the last one before the election Saturday, Oct. 20.

@carliberry_
carli.berry@kelownacapnews.com

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