Slate discussions for civic election draw mixed views

Is there or isn’t there going to be an organized “slate” of municipal council candidates in the upcoming election?

Is there or isn’t there going to be an organized “slate” of municipal council candidates in the upcoming election?

Some incumbent local politicians seem to think so, while other would-be candidates—some of whom are being pointed to as part of a pro-business slate—vehemently deny they are working with any other candidates to get elected.

Speculation about the slate—a less-defined version of party politics at the civic level—was fueled last week when former mayor Walter Gray tossed his hat into the election ring.

In announcing his candidacy, Gray said there is a need for change on council, and that he expected a lot of like-minded candidates would put their names forward now that he officially had decided to run for mayor.

Gray feels council has moved away from a business focus.

Gray feels that focus is needed given the state of the local economy.

“They don’t feel they can work with the (current) council,” he said about the unnamed potential candidates.

Gray is currently in Europe on vacation and could not be reached for comment, but his campaign manager, Shelley Gillmore, said her candidate is not leading, or involved with, any group in the election.

“He’s not part of a slate,” said Gillmore. “There is no official slate that involves Walter.”

Former Kelowna fire chief Gerry Zimmermann, who has announced he will seek a seat on council in the November election, and whose name has been repeatedly associated with a Gray-led group, also denied he’s part of any slate.

“No, absolutely not,” said Zimmermann. “I don’t want to be part of a slate. I don’t like being painted into a corner.”

He said he is not even asking for the support of the firefighters because he does not want to appear beholden to any group if elected.

Coun. Andre Blanleil, the last of the incumbents to publicly announce his intention to seek re-election, said despite his well-known differences of opinion with several of the people he currently sits with on council, he also is not part of a any slate.

But he did concede discussions have taken place among some people in the community about the election.

Blanleil has been critical of many council decisions, and said he believes it needs more “balance.”

As for a pro-business slate, incumbent Coun. Robert Hobson said he has also heard rumours that one is forming.

A perennial vote-topper and the longest serving member on the current council, Hobson said he opposes slates or party politics at the municipal level because voters here expect the mayor and all eight councilors to represent them all and work for the good of the entire city and all its areas.

He said there have been attempts in the past to create pseudo slates, where a group has taken out newspaper advertisements to say it is supporting a group of candidates.

But that has not proven successful in the past.

Some of the candidates, himself included, have been angry to see their names grouped with other candidates, but in the past the advertisements came out late in the election campaign.

Hobson said he believes that if a slate is formed under Gray, some incumbent candidates may join it.

While some candidates are already campaigning, the official nomination period for the election does not start until Oct. 4.



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