Four years ago, Colin Basran sought the job of Kelowna mayor riding the slogan “open for opportunity.”
It was his way of expanding the mantra of his predecessor Walter Gray, who used the slogan “open for business” during his political comeback in 2011.
After see-saw shifts by previous city councils that focused heavily on business issues, then social issues and then back to business, Basran said he wanted to see the council he would lead address a healthy mix of the two.
Four years later, he says he believes that effort was a success.
“Our community is, in a number of ways, flourishing in a number of different aspects, particularly economically and, I believe, socially as well,” said Basran Thursday as he announced his re-election bid for a second term as mayor.
“We are seeing solutions right now to help the most vulnerable in our community. So yeah, I do believe that ‘open for opportunity’ is something that has served this city well.”
As he did four years ago, Basran used a downtown rooftop as the location for his re-election bid. In 2014 it was on top of the Earl’s restaurant downtown. This time, before an even larger crowd of about 200 people on the roof of the Okanagan Centre for Innovation, a high-tech showcase building that opened during Basran’s first term in office.
Under a bright, sunny sky, with a stunning picturesque view of Okanagan Lake and downtown behind him, Basran said four years ago he stood before many of the same people who gathered Thursday and presented what he then called a “new vision for our community.”
“With your support and a lot of hard work, we have accomplished something special,” he said. “Today Kelowna is a dynamic and vibrant city with a sense of optimism we’ve not seen before. While complacency tends to rise during the good times, we simply can’t afford it.”
He said today the city’s economy is thriving, Kelowna’s town centres are bustling with activity, and arts and culture is “filling the hearts of our community.”
“I am not willing to risk this transformation. You have worked too hard to initiate this progress and it is with your support today that I want to make sure we do not lose this positive momentum. So it is with great pride, with all of you standing with me, that I am today announcing I will be seeking re-election as the mayor of Kelowna.”
Basran’s decision to run again was no surprise. Even his father George joked it was one of the worst kept secrets in town.
His son, who turned 40 in November and joked about looking older than his years because of the grey hair that has sprouted on his head since he came into office in 2014 said serving the community during one its most prosperous times has been the “experience of a lifetime” and something he’ll cherish for the rest of his life.
But he said the job is not done.
With the city still grappling with serious social issue such as homelessness and affordable housing, he said it is social issues that keep him up at night.
But he pointed to the city’s ambitious Journey Home initiative to address homelessness as a bright spot on the horizon.
Despite its estimated $47 million total cost over several years, he said he is encouraged by the work done by the task force spearheading the effort and is looking forward to the final report next month.
He said he is also confident the city’s integrated water distribution plan—to combine all five major water purveyors in the city into one municipal utility—will eventually be realized.
So far only the South East Kelowna Irrigation District has agreed to join the city, a move it had to make in order to get much needed provincial funds to upgrade its infrastructure.
Basran said with provincial backing of the city’s water plan, he expects current hold-out utilities Rutland Waterworks, Black Mountain Irrigation District and Glenmore-Ellison Improvement District to eventually join the city’s system.
But the last four years has not been all smooth sailing for Basran and his council.
Some in the city feel both he and his councillors have not come out as strongly as they should against the province’s planned “speculation” tax, a position Basran disputes.
He said behind the scenes the city has been arguing against thee tax with the province, preferring to see a true property “flipping” tax implemented instead.
And he prefers to keep some of that lobbying effort behind closed doors.
“I think it’s important to note not all negotiations are done in front of the media,” said Basran, who prior to running for a seat on council seat in 2011 worked as a television reporter in the Okanagan.
He said affordable housing remains one of the biggest challenges facing the current, and future, councils. But Basran there are encouraging signs. The city’s healthy housing strategy will help create availability and affordability and he vowed to “chip” away at the problem with every new development application the city receives.
The city’s rental grants program has been tremendously success in getting more rental housing built in Kelowna over the last four years and has resulted in the approval of more than 2,900 purpose-built rental housing units in the city, a figure he described as “unheard of for any council.”
Several incumbent city councillors were on hand for Basran’s announcement, including Luke Stack, Gail Given, Charlie Hodge, Tracy Gray and Ryan Donn.
Stack and Given spoke at Basran’s announcement and, in a rare move for council incumbents who are planning to seek-re-election, publicly endorsed Basran for mayor in the upcoming municipal election in October.
To report a typo, email: