West Kelowna council candidates seeking your vote

Candidates for district council answer some questions.

To help point out the differences between the field of 13 candidates seeking a seat at the District of West Kelowna council table in the Nov. 19 municipal election, the Capital News asked each candidate to give a 50-word answer to four questions.

The questions:

#1—What would you do to improve the economic development cooperation between Westbank First Nation and the District of West Kelowna?

#2—What improvements would you advocate regarding transit and roads in West Kelowna?

#3—What can the district do to improve the poverty situation in West Kelowna?

#4—What can the district council do to encourage more commercial and industrial growth in West Kelowna?

One candidate, Mike Smith, did not respond to the questions by our press deadline.

Gux Albrecht

#1: One needs only to drive down Highway 97 to see that WFN has focused on retail and commercial development over the past few years. The opportunities for DWK lie in focusing on excellent industrial and tourism-based development. By complimenting each other’s strengths and working together, we can offer the whole package in our area.

#2: It’s difficult to justify improvements in transit when 85 per cent of 2010 survey respondents said they don’t ever use the system. As for roads, council should do the following:

• Consult with and implement recommendations from the engineering department regarding road issues that impact public safety.

• Ensure collector routes are designed and built with consideration of future development.

#3: Council should do the following:

• Encourage private sector employment by implementing policies from the economic enhancement plan.

• Actively seek out nonprofit organizations that provide social services and encourage them to locate here.

• Encourage low-cost housing proposals from the development community and fast-track their implementation.

#4: The entrepreneurial spirit is very strong in the district and council must encourage growth by addressing the following concerns:

• Reduce the cost of local government by improving efficiency.

• Increase local government’s awareness of small business.

• Reduce the bureaucratic burden on businesses and developers.

Rick de Jong

#1: Encourage ongoing dialogue through such methods as joint council meetings to explore opportunities of mutual benefit and partnership.

#2:  Increase transit service frequencies across the district to levels now seen in Glenrosa. Continue with bus stop upgrades such as shelters and benches. Move forward with road and sidewalk upgrades, as finances allow.

#3: Support balanced economic development and investment that generate jobs in West Kelowna. Higher density residential development, where appropriate, would help ensure a supply of more affordable housing. Work with other levels of government to support social programs that bring support and help the vulnerable members of society.

#4: Work with district staff to ensure that the development application and approval process is streamlined and efficient. Initiate a process of ongoing dialogue with the local business community through organizations such as the local chamber of commerce. Ensure that the district’s development charges are as low as possible to attract and support growth.

Rusty Ensign

#1: Start by living up to the Memorandum of Understanding with WFN based upon mutual respect, honour and recognition by not negotiating through the press. Enter into joint venture projects between WFN and the district in order to secure our own Crown lands. Same as Peachland with Ponderosa Golf.

#2: We can’t afford everything at the same time, but Boucherie, Glenrosa and Shannon Lake Roads must be a priority for pedestrian safety. No more sidewalks to nowhere. A Park & Ride should be implemented where you can park and have regular 15 minute service to Kelowna.

#3:  Give the food bank whatever help (the district) can with no property taxes and a generous annual grant in aid. Facilitate investment and job creation with a “we are open for business” attitude. Create a Housing Trust Fund for affordable housing to empower volunteers to participate and help address the need. Partner with WFN.

#4: Become a competitive jurisdiction that attracts investment. Streamline the approval process. Establish firm timelines to advance applications. When businesses or residents come to the counter, treat them like a customer. End the endless bureaucratic procedure. Create a development services department. Implement “Investment Zones” downtown and in the industrial park.

Gordon Ficke

# 1: First of all our council should honour the Memorandum of Understanding that was signed by Mayor Doug Findlater and Chief Robert Louie. We must start there in good faith that we can work together on all the issues that are common to both WFN and the district. Regular ongoing meetings need to be scheduled and adhered to. It is imperative that all issues need to be brought to the table by both parties and quickly resolved before they become insurmountable.

#2: Transit for our entire region should be reviewed and improved. Having to wait for an inordinate amount of time to connect with another bus makes the service impractical. If riders can’t count on timely connections then people will not utilize it. Existing roads should be continually upgraded to current standards in the district as our budget allows. Adequate roads that will accommodate increased traffic flows should be built first in those areas that are considered for new development.

#3: The district could provide a grant in aid to a registered society willing to set up a shelter, similar to the Gospel Mission (in Kelowna). Local churches and service clubs may be willing to help fund the operating costs. Council should initiate an open discussion on this important topic.

#4: Controlled economic development is the key pillar in my platform. I believe this is crucial over the next three years as we move towards self sufficiency. The first step is to relocate our DWK administration and council back to Westbank, the economic heart of our community. Vacant buildings can be leased in the interim until we have the financial resources to build a new civic centre. Secondly, we need to attract businesses to downtown that will meet the criteria for the goals determined by the Westbank Centre Community Consultation Committee.

David Knowles

#1: To improve the economic development cooperation between Westbank First Nation and the District of West Kelowna:

• Use the existing economic development Memorandum of Understanding with WFN

• Continue to direct our new business development officer, new land agent and DWK staff to work with WFN

#2: Transit: Implement Rapid Bus BC, frequent, high speed, minimal stop, Westbank Centre/UBCO in conjunction with improvements/streamlining to the neighbourhood feeder system.

Roads: Based on Master Transportation Plan, using Road Rehabilitation Program with Road, Developer Cost Contribution Program, upgrade the urban roads to urban standards and the designated rural roads to true rural standards.

#3: Generate more legal secondary suites to provide more affordable housing for the secondary suite occupant and the home owner. Encourage the province to expand/enhance and DWK to expand programs for at-risk youth through our Westside Youth Centre.

#4: Replace couplet with pedestrian friendly downtown Main Street and two-way Dobbin. Build urgent care centre, and a city hall. Encourage mixed-use commercial/residential development. Implement program of reduced DCCs for Westbank development and reduced business taxes for new or expanded businesses. Thereby, generate a critical mass of people/businesses. Support Mission Hill Winery expansion.

Gord Milsom

#1:  Support a close working relationship between the District of West Kelowna’s business development officer and the Westbank First Nation’s economic development office.  Continue to work together in support of Westside tourism activities and the Visitor Information Centre. Establish a cooperative relationship in the best economic interests of both communities.

#2: Continue to invest in improvements to district roads, including the addition of sidewalks and bike paths. Support the extension of the Highway 97 Rapid Bus to the Westbank Centre, providing fast and direct connections through West Kelowna and Kelowna on route to UBCO.

#3: Focus on economic development efforts, which can lead to more local jobs. The district’s more permissive secondary suite bylaw should encourage a greater supply of affordable rental housing. The district can continue to approve the property tax exemption for the Westside Community Food bank.

#4: Respond quickly and efficiently to inquiries from interested businesses. Focus on implementing the Westbank Centre Revitalization plan. Promote advantages of West Kelowna’s well situated industrial area. Communicate with and involve key stakeholders (commercial real estate agents, landowners, business owners, Urban Development Institute, Chamber of Commerce and others).

Duane Ophus

#1: We have established a template for economic development cooperation with WFN over several years with our joint work on tourism services and this partnership continues today. I will build on this work and expand to other economic development initiatives. Business development staff from both governments work closely together.

#2: BC Transit is completing a full review of all routes in the district, to be completed by December, 2011. I want to see Bus Rapid transit to Westbank, with service to the airport and UBCO and maximum possible local coverage of our neighbourhoods, within the constraints of affordability.

#3: People need jobs and access to affordable housing and we can support the strongest possible local economy by making sure we encourage investment in our community. Development of rental housing is important and we can look at things like zoned development cost charges to help create the conditions for success.

#4: West Kelowna has a good base of light industry but we can do better. We have already lowered tax rates to be competitive with other local governments.  A number of new businesses have been started in recent years. An industrial land strategy is in process and I will make sure this is completed and implemented.

Randall Robinson

#1: I will leverage my fresh perspective on council to help foster a climate of trust and cooperation with the people of Westbank First Nation. I will support a joint economic development committee with a mandate to identify joint development and investment opportunities, and to champion effective and transparent communication.

#2: I will insist on prioritizing safer roads. Pedestrian paths, sidewalks and bike lanes must be expanded and improved, especially around schools, parks and community amenities. Transit routes and schedules need to be revamped to better address local considerations and needs. I support a centralized transit exchange, Park and Ride and express bus routes.

#3: Attracting new business and investment in order to create sustainable career employment is crucial. Training and mentorship are fundamental ingredients. Education creates employability and a strong workforce—both key factors for businesses when deciding where to locate. The district should also improve and encourage interagency cooperation.

#4: Our current processes are slow and complex, discouraging sustainable businesses and developments. We need to attract the right kinds of sustainable business and investment, but we must do this with a sense of urgency and an open mind. Council must scrutinize and revise processes so that new business is encouraged and accelerated when appropriate.

Cathy Sinclair

#1: I believe that right now there is a strain between our two communities and that needs to be rectified. We need to build and develop a trusting relationship that supports our families, but honours our individuality as separate communities. We are neighbours and we need to work together for the betterment of all our people. We need to work together, to support each other and we need to be able to talk about our wants, our needs and our concerns for our individual communities that share this amazing topography.

#2: The roads and sidewalks around our community schools need to be a focus. Children need to develop independence, but parents have a strong concern about the lack of sidewalks and the speed of vehicle’s around the school’s. Due to poor transit scheduling, people are more likely to take a car or be driven by a family member to activities or shopping than hop on a bus. We want to be a sustainable community.

#3: We need councillors, support workers and the resources to help improve the lives of people living in poverty. We need to be able to encourage and support families and seniors, and give them opportunities to succeed. Without the resources, we don’t have the availability to help people end their cycle of poverty. We need a resource centre that helps lift up people in our community who are struggling.

#4: I believe we can support developers and entrepreneurs to reach their dreams of building success by providing learning opportunities and support within our commercial areas. The OCP consultation exercise created a very good document from which to shape our future. Individuals clearly came out with the desire to move forward with the creation of several commercial centres that support the growth of neighbourhoods and a community that is accessible by more than just vehicles.

Mike Trenn

#1: I suggest we sit down to discuss and understand each other’s Official Community Plans and the economic strategy to implement plans. We should then look for opportunities that we can partner on, that will benefit both communities. For example the Urgent Health Care Centre, or combine resources to establish a YMCA/YWCA.

#2: The Master Transportation Study advocates the development of a connective, more responsive transit structure and routes to move people to destinations across to Kelowna. Students’ usage issues, both secondary and post secondary, needs attention and action. The biggest challenge with roads, is speeding. We need more traffic calming. Improved roads increase speeding issues.

#3: Review the delivery of social services. Identify issues and define areas that are under municipal jurisdiction, then prioritize and implement short-term solutions, using existing effective outreach programs that are in place with local churches and charities. Thereafter establish medium and longer-term strategies.

#4:The district council should be actively seeking out knowledge-based businesses in Canada, U.S., Europe and Asia that are looking to expand/relocate. Find out what businesses are looking for. Market the benefits of our area: The proximity to UBCO, Okanagan University College and our international airport.

Bryden Winsby

#1: The District of West Kelowna’s relationship with Westbank First Nation must not be a matter of “us and them.” Open and frank dialogue will help develop a more cohesive approach to economic development. One way is through continuation of our council-to-council discussions.

#2: Public transit is very expensive and heavily subsidized. Scheduling changes are not made easily. A major improvement could come with Rapid Bus, providing express service from Westbank Centre to UBCO. A close look at its success, or lack thereof, will help determine what connection adjustments are needed.

The municipality’s Transportation Master Plan will classify roads and set construction standards for each type. We must then approve a capital expenditure program to implement elements of the plan. My priorities include Boucherie Road and the intersection of McIver and Glenrosa Roads.

#3: “Poverty” is a complex social issue for which there are no one-paragraph solutions, especially for local governments, which have limited resources and tools. A collaborative effort with agencies involved directly with problems faced by low-income residents could provide the municipality with an action plan.

#4: We have adopted an Economic Development Strategy and hired a business development officer to pursue its goals, which include increasing local job opportunities and expanding the commercial tax base. Progress will be monitored closely during 2012 and we will also develop a land acquisition strategy that may increase the municipality’s inventory of industrial-commercial property.

Carol Zanon

#1: Working with WFN is a part of our economic development strategy and strategic plan. The business development officers have worked on tourism initiatives. This year we had another successful Community in Bloom program winning national awards. Personally, I relish more interactions, such as building a Gateway Centre together.

#2: Council has approved the roads classification, a necessary task before developing more detailed plans, and each year we have scheduled road rehabilitation.  We need a new governance system for transit, and a better image. It is the future if we truly believe in the Climate Charter that we signed.

#3: We need jobs for people who can work, such as construction on the major expansion at the Mission Hill Winery, with more projects to come. Council could consider providing a directory of appropriate federal and provincial programs and provide opportunities for all to enjoy a better quality of life.

#4: Our 14 master plans, upon implementation will make West Kelowna a more desirable place to live, work and play.

A policy for acquiring land for industrial and commercial use, a new zoning bylaw, as well as support for the creation of a business improvement area will provide certainty for businesses.