With eight names to choose from on the Westside-Kelowna byelection ballot, the decision-making process may not be an easy one when voters go to the polls Wednesday, July 10.
Four MLA hopefuls are running as independent candidates, one candidate is the leader of the small B.C. Vision party, one earned nine per cent of the vote in Penticton May 14, one finished second in the Westside-Kelowna riding last month and one, of course, is the premier.
In this week’s Close-up, Capital News reporter Wade Paterson quizzes the candidates on five issues ranging from the province’s infamous worst road to poverty and youth homelessness.
1–In four years, West Kelowna has the potential to be the most important business hub…in British Columbia, considering location, resource and population. I’m going to make sure that happens. I will work hard with the provincial and federal governments to channelize their efforts to make West Kelowna the centre of their investment.
2–I realize the challenges of poverty and homelessness we face in this area…the wait for the betterment in the lives of our youth in this area has been an agonizing one. I will be the voice of the youth to bring more transportation, education, jobs, sports and cultural facilities to West Kelowna.
3–The problem is that the current government is not putting enough resources into health care. A large part of the resources are being squandered away. These resources need to be utilized better and more emphasis needs to be given to health care, particularly up-to-date medical facilities.
4–North of Trader’s Cove the road is in a condition that calls for urgent repairs. After 10 kilometres of winding, but well-designed highway, drivers suddenly, and without warning, find themselves on a narrow section of road that belongs to a bygone age when there were no tourists and very little traffic. (Editor’s note: Bhandari’s answer is nearly verbatim to a letter written by West Kelowna resident Harry Liedtke, which was published in Capital News May 30, 2013).
5–I will be the West Kelowna residents’ voice to make the current government make a concrete plan for a second bridge or widening the existing bridge. Transportation is definitely on the top of my agenda…alternatively, I would encourage car-pooling.
1–I’m supportive of the district leading a redevelopment plan to improve the downtown core and so is the province. There are many talented people in the riding, so I am sure that a creative and innovative land use plan will be developed that will build on the town centre.
2–I’m committed to growing the economy so there are well-paying jobs here, and to support those in need today. That’s why we are maintaining funding for the Richter Street youth shelter. But, we also need to make sure the continuum of services offered here are well known.
3–The report revealed a wide spectrum of services here on the Westside, but indicated that we could do more in home care and mental health. Interior Health just recently added additional mental health services for West Kelowna and is working to make sure we have the services we need.
4–I travelled the road with Ben Stewart to better understand the concerns. Even though there has been $8 million invested over the last three years for safety improvements, there is more to do and I am committed to seeing that happen.
5–I spoke with (Kelowna) Mayor Walter Gray about this and believe that the conversation needs to start now. Crossings are not built overnight, but I’m committed to work with the mayor on this issue and see what we can do in the current fiscal climate.
(New Democratic Party)
1–The province has to play a role. Christy Clark’s government is ignoring transportation problems in our community. The government should be talking with the municipality, small businesses and residents to at least come up with a plan. As the city grows, the problems will only get worse.
2–Now is the time to act. There are community groups that have put a lot of work into these issues already. They have good ideas and the provincial government should be listening to them to understand the problem and start implementing solutions.
3–First, Christy Clark needs to make a real commitment to improve and adequately fund our health care system. The next step is determining exactly what health care services are required and what is the best and most affordable way to implement those services.
4–The Liberals have had 12 years to address the condition of Westside Road. Many locals, tourists and travellers use this road to bypass Kelowna and the heavy traffic downtown. We need a commitment to get on with more realignment and repositioning of the roadway and it needs to be done soon.
5–This is another example of the Christy Clark government ignoring our transportation problems. The government needs to put forward a plan. I’m disappointed we didn’t hear anything in the general election. A project of this size will require a full-time MLA to ensure the needs of our community are truly addressed.
1–The town’s staff need to develop a 10- to 15-year plan as to what they want to see happen regarding their downtown core, including what type of character they want it to have to attract businesses and the public. This is a civic decision with only a supporting role to be played by any MLA.
2–The best thing that can be done is to ensure there are enough jobs and work available. On a local basis, as there is very little industry, the youth will need to move to where the work is. The oil sands is a provider of a large number of jobs, where anyone who wants to work can get ahead.
3–With a brand new hospital in Kelowna and ambulance service covering emergencies, I would need to see a cost/benefit analysis. Health care already comprises 40 to 45 per cent of the provincial budget, and West Kelowna is already significantly closer to a major hospital than most non-city communities.
4–I would need to see the number of vehicles that use this road past Bear Creek Park, the number of accidents and the expected cost of proposed upgrades before I can answer this. Keeping the road well-maintained and in good repair, due to its many curves, should be a priority.
5–The province could open a dialogue with West Kelowna, Kelowna and Vernon to first find out if this is something truly wanted. Costs to the local area would need to be agreed upon and then a long-term plan by the major stakeholders could be developed.
1–It seems lights could be timed to allow for more efficient traffic. I have heard there has been some extensive talk on this within the business and residential community, so I would take the time to listen to those living and doing business there.
2–Talk with the youth, invite them to the table. Have volunteer opportunities for all people, especially youth, that involve credit toward higher education and local activities. In parallel with this could be some mentor meals where businesses/council sponsor food and meet with people of various socio-economic backgrounds.
3–I think we should put another “l” in welfare to make it wellfare. Let’s define this in addition to how best to keep people healthy. This includes education, recreation, as well as mentoring and involving people in programs.
4–Part of this problem is that you can’t move to the desert and expect to have a manicured lawn. Are people living there willing to contribute to improvements? What do they feel could improve it the most?
5–I think this issue can be delayed with work toward improving transit use, car-pooling and innovative solutions toward less carbon imprints. For example, encouraging four day work weeks, work out of home and introducing park and rides with the parking pass price deducted from car insurance.
1–I believe we need to respect the wishes of the mayor and the West Kelowna council to start with. They happen to know what is best and it is an MLA’s job to respect and come alongside with the funding and procedure to empower them to get it done.
2–We need to realize that there are presently a good number of community-based organizations such as the Gospel Mission and many others that have a pulse on the problem. We need not re-invent the wheel here, we need to put some “air” in the wheels that are already there.
3–Joanne’s credentials validate her opinion. She stated a critical care facility may be premature now, but other mental health services are needed. I believe the province needs to work on that, and at the same time, take the long-term approach: Plan for two facilities to be housed together eventually.
4–We need to quit just patching up the problem with photo-ops and passing lanes. It’s a crucial secondary route around the lake, the only way home for many individuals. The carnage that has taken place on that road is inexcusable. I need more than 50 words to explain this one.
5–The province should give the Okanagan back all the gas taxes that are collected and spent in other areas of the province. This area has the highest gas prices and we are not seeing much local benefit. It is all going to the Lower Mainland or Victoria and being squandered.
Dayleen Van Ryswyk
1–There are many communities trying to cope with an identity crisis for their downtown area. West Kelowna/Westbank has the added challenge of the couplet. I believe bringing city hall into Westbank with revitalization of the area and further development will help mesh the area and solidify a sense of community.
2–Poverty knows no boundaries. A loss of a job or a family situation, even a medical issue can change one’s life forever. There are many reasons for homelessness and there is no one remedy that fixes all solutions. Affordability and a decent paying job is a start.
3–Health care is an issue facing many communities. In areas of higher senior populations, that need is often greater. West Kelowna is served well by KGH, but if we can have a more compartmentalized medical facility, that would help take some strain off KGH and benefit the local community.
4–People outside the immediate area may not realize how well travelled Westside Road is or how dangerous it is. Clearly there’s a problem. I’ve travelled the road and find it quite winding and narrow in places. If we could fix those issues, that would be a start.
5–A second crossing is a great idea. Should something happen to the bridge we have now, it could be a disaster since we only have the one crossing. We should be identifying the best place for the crossing, feasibility and the cost of acquiring lands for that purpose.
1–The biggest problem with Highway 97 is the traffic volume. We need to look at the feasibility of a light rail system from Rutland to downtown Westbank. Taking many of the passenger cars off the road would ease travel times and lessen our carbon footprint.
2–Building affordable, energy efficient, mid to high density accommodation is a start, but we really need to address the problem with hard drugs. People whose lives have fallen apart can ill afford to work or pay rent. Perhaps better support is the answer.
3–The province needs to encourage more specialists to come to the area, particularly heart and lung specialists. I believe that we need an acute and trauma care facility because there is no hospital on this side of the bridge. I also think West Kelowna needs another assisted living care facility.
4–Westside Road is beautiful. We need to get speeders to slow down and those who want to drive slow and look around to speed up a bit or pull over. We need pullouts, guard rails and better enforcement of speed regulations. Gouging a highway through isn’t the answer.
5–I would like to approach BC Transit about an LRT bridging Westside with downtown first. We need to get some traffic pressure off of the downtown core, ease the commute, unwind some of the stress and lighten our load on the environment.