Despite the challenges ahead, Mayor Colin Basran sees a bright future for Kelowna.
During the annual State of the City address, which was hosted by the Kelowna Chamber of Commerce, Basran touched on everything from the environment to public safety and the role the city plays in these issues.
“Our city has so much potential and as a council we are committed to do everything we can to deliver a responsible, safe connected and collaborative community,” he said.
He said that council has a vision for this city that is inclusive, prosperous, sustainable, smarter, connected and collaborative. By leaning in to the city’s connections to other groups and higher levels of government, he said it will be better positioned to meet its aims in environmental protection, economic resilience, transportation, social advocacy, community safety and well being.
As the speech gained steam, Basran honed in on the environmental challenges ahead and made mention of the report from Environment and Climate Change Canada, titled Canada’s Changing Climate Report that was released on Monday.
The report says that Canada is warming at twice the rate of the rest of the world and that Northern Canada is warming even more quickly, nearly three times the global rate. Three of the past five years have been the warmest on record, the authors said.
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“Simply put we are killing the planet and we need to do better,” said Basran.
“Many have felt the impact on business in recent years.”
Flooding in Kelowna and in nearby municipalities, has caused serious and costly damage.
“In 2017 the Emergency Operations Centre was in operation from May 4, until late September to deal with floods and then wildfires,” he said.
It was a record 131 days of stress for both property owners and business owners, he said, and it cost the region millions of dollars “as locals stayed indoors and visitors stayed away.”
Repairs of flood damage cost $3 million in 2017 and the province spent $10 million.
Looking forward mitigation work will be done.
So far they’ve attracted $22 million from the federal government to deal with large scale flood protection work at the airport and other locations.
There’s also a wildfire management plan in place and $9 million designated for works to modernize landfill in days ahead.
While the environmental challenges were part of the address, social issues were also a focus.
From homelessness to housing for middle income earners, the city of Kelowna is now dealing with things it never has in the past.
“It’s new to governments of our size, we can’t ignore then,” he said. “People look to us for leadership.”