Kelowna’s year in review – October 2019

A look back at the biggest stories of the year in October

Former prime

ministers speak in Kelowna

Former Liberal prime minister Jean Chretien and former Conservative prime minister Stephen Harper were both in Kelowna to speak at a leadership conference in early October.

During Chretien’s visit he stopped by former MP Stephen Fuhr’s office to rally supporters and ducked questions about Justin Trudeau’ black face scandal.

Harper on the other hand, made less of a splash and visited MP Tracy Gray’s office with less fanfare and media attention.

MLA cleared of

financial wrongdoing

Elections B.C. cleared Kelowna-West MLA Ben Stewart of any wrongdoing related to an irregular political donation made to the B.C. Liberal Party.

Stewart wrote to Chief Electoral Officer Anton Boegman on Aug. 1 to advise him of the issue and voluntarily left the B.C. Liberal caucus while the issue was investigated.

At issue was a political contribution to the BC Liberal Party that was reimbursed to the contributor by the party.

“The review found no evidence that the political contribution and reimbursement were made in contravention of the Election Act. Elections BC now considers this matter closed,” said the independent election agency in a statement.

Downtown legacy

project championed

A prominent group of Kelowna residents held a press conference in early October to ask the City of Kelowna to reconsider its plans to develop the old RCMP site on Doyle Avenue.

The Legacy Project Group urged the city to pause its plans to sell the site until public consultations could be completed.

As part of its lobbying efforts, the group also released a detailed development plan that could drastically transform four civic areas in the downtown core, including the old RCMP station, the Kelowna Community Theatre, the city hall parking lot and the Memorial Arena.

Two of those properties are part of the Simpson covenant, which restricts the commercial use of the land. The Legacy Group said the Simpson family has indicated a willingness to consider the group’s plans.

Rutland residents

oppose ‘wet’

housing project

The sudden arrival of the cold wasn’t enough to deter petitioners in early October from collecting more than 14,000 signatures.

Organized by local Rutland residents, the petition was put together to try and get the province to change the lenient rules towards drug and alcohol use at the ‘wet’ McCurdy Road Supportive Housing project scheduled to be completed next spring.

In July, after intense public pressure, the province changed the rules for the McCurdy project prohibiting the use of illegal drugs on site. Alcohol and certain drugs will still be permitted.

The biggest concern for the community is that the McCurdy project is too close to Rutland schools. With alcohol being allowed on the site, parents in the neighbourhood are concerned more issues will arise in their neighbourhood.

Six bears destroyed

in West Kelowna

A West Kelowna business was charged after six bears were euthanized in three days following continuous littering in an area around Lake Okanagan Resort.

According to Conservation Officer Jeff Hanratty, officers were forced to put down three bears over the course of three days due to safety concerns.

“We had a group of bears that were habituated and food-conditioned with unnatural food sources that had become a threat to the public,” said Hanratty.

“We had a witness who was charged twice by the black bears, we had bears up on balconies accessing garbage and food and there’s a report of a bear pushing on a window.”

Hanratty said they had no choice but to shoot the bears, noting if the bears had been relocated to their natural environment there would be a very good chance of them making a return.

Conservative candidate

wins Kelowna-

Lake Country riding

Conservative candidate Tracy Gray handily won the local election race for Kelowna-Lake County after beating Liberal incumbent Stephen Fuhr on Oct. 21.

Gray, now the first woman elected to represent the riding, won with 45.7 of the popular vote garnering a total of 31,037 votes, according to preliminary results from Elections Canada.

Fuhr finished the race with 32.6 per cent of the popular vote, while the NDP’s Justin Kulik, finished third with 12.1 per cent.

Green Party candidate Travis Ashley finished a distant fourth with 7.4 per cent of the popular vote.

“Tonight this is really about you and this is about the people of Kelowna-Lake Country,” said Gray, during her victory speech at the Ramada Hotel. “I just want to thank all of you for your support and dedication.”

During her speech she thanked her family, campaign team and her volunteers. She also took time to thank Fuhr for his hard work over the past four years and the other candidates who ran for election.

Incumbent MP retains

electoral seat

Voters in the riding of Central Okanagan-Similkameen-Nicola re-elected Conservative candidate Dan Albas to represent them in Ottawa on Oct. 21.

This is the third time Albas was elected to the House of Commons. He was first elected in 2011 and re-elected in 2015.

Albas took the lead in the riding early with more than 47 per cent of the popular vote.

Long-time Kelowna

developer dies

One of Kelowna’s most notable developers died in October.

Al Stober, whose Stober Group built the Landmark office towers across Harvey Avenue from the city’s Parkinson Recreation Centre along with other residential and commercial properties throughout the city, died Oct. 18 at the age of 88.

He is survived by his wife of 63 years Sandra, his children Linda, Mark, Ken and Carolyn, their spouses and his 13 grandchildren.

According to the company, Stober was at the helm of the Stober Group for more than 62 years. Under his guidance, the company achieved the highest of accolades on multiple award-winning building projects, as well as community recognition for what it called his “innovative perspective.”

The six Landmark towers will be joined by a seventh — to be one of the city’s tallest buildings — in 2021.

Kelowna council

dismisses second

bridge over

Okanagan Lake

A second bridge over Okanagan Lake and a freeway alternative along Kelowna’s north end is dead in water.

City staff described the project as “prohibitively expensive,” after initial plans in 2007 jumped by $300 million.

According to city staff, the project would now likely cost more than $1 billion.

Instead of building a second bridge, city staff suggested taking an incremental approach to improve the flow of traffic through the city.

The revised plans indicate it may be more realistic to build an arterial roadway connecting Clement Avenue to McCurdy Road instead of the high-speed freeway with interchanges that was initially envisioned in the first plan. Clement Avenue currently ends at Spall Road.

The proposed road would run parallel to the Rail Trail, which was recently completed by the city. If the plan moves forward the city would have to relocate its bus facility.

The scope of work includes a four-lane connection between Spall Road and Highway 33, with at-grade intersections at Spall, Dilworth, and Enterprise. The most recent cost estimate for this work is $57 million.

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