Former Kelowna Chamber of Commerce president Tom Dyas has made it official, he wants to be Kelowna’s next mayor.
But to do so, he will have to unseat a man he supported four years ago for the job and now considers a close friend, current Mayor Colin Basran.
Repeating several times during his announcement speech on Wednesday in Rutland that leadership is needed at city hall, Dyas told a crowd smaller than the one Basran attracted for his re-election announcement atop of the Innovation Centre downtown: “I feel we can do better.”
“I believe by entering this election more serious discussion on the major issues will ensue,” said Dyas. “The community will be the benefactor, as the issues will be covered with much more in-depth discussion and community input.”
Asked after his announcement if he is still friends with Basran in light of his late entry into the mayor’s race—there are just two days left to file nomination papers—Dyas said he hoped so.
“I’d like to continue that friendship, definitely,” he said.
The pair have been close in the past, with both travelling together to Japan as representatives of the city during Dyas’s two-year stint as chamber president and holidaying together in Hawaii and in New York, the later to celebrate Basran’s 40th birthday.
The pair currently serve together on the bid committee trying to land the 2020 Memorial Cup tournament. Dyas is the bid committee chairman.
It was after a recent bid-related visit to Kelowna’s airport that Dyas said he sat down with Basran to tell him he was entering the mayor’s race.
When Dyas was asked asked about how the conversation between him and Basran went, he said Basran told him he had heard he may run and was “a little taken back” by the news.
In his announcement Wednesday, Dyas listed a number of key issues he said are “critical” for the city to address, including:
• Financial accountability for spending and tax hikes
• Citizen safety and homelessness in the downtown core
• Transportation and infrastructure
• Water management
• Sustainable managed growth
On the issue of tax increases in recent years, Dyas said a number of people he has talked to have not been happy that residential property taxes have increased a total of 16 per cent over the four-year term of the current council.
But when asked if he had a specific number in mind as to what an annual increase should be, Dyas could not say.
The city has defended recent tax increases, pointing to costs such as the new police services building and contract increases for the RCMP and city staff as partial reasons for those increases.
On the issue of the homelessness and safety downtown, Dyas expressed concern about how the city has brought in those he feels need to be included in order for the city’s Journey Home Strategy to be successful.
“Talks have started and stopped, and started and stopped, again,” he said.
Like Basran, Dyas is opposed to the province’s speculation tax on property owned by out-of-province residents and noted he has spoken out against it in his capacity as a spokesman for the chamber of commerce.
Dyas, a single father of three adult children, has operated a group benefits and pension brokerage business for 32 years in the city and has a long history of being involved in a number of volunteer positions and on and boards in the city.
He called his decision to run for mayor a “turning point” for both himself and for the residents of Kelowna.
“Today is a turning point for me. The time is right for me and my family, as my business can now allow me to take on a new role,” he said. “As a chamber director for the past eight years and president for the last two years, I have an in-depth knowledge of the current issues facing our community and a proven track-record of working through tough issues.”
He said he has been disappointed in how issues have been addressed by the current council and while he conceded the mayor in Kelowna is just one voice on the nine-member council, he said a stronger tone needs to come from the top.
“In order for us to move forward, the hard discussions have to be had,” he said.
Dyas added the staff at city hall also need better leadership from the mayor and council.
Dyas joins a mayoral election field that already includes Basran, retired city bylaw officer Bob Schewe, skateboard shop owner Bobby Kennedy and local businessman Joshua Hoggan. The civic election is Oct. 20.
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