Kelowna mayoral frontrunners offer different view of the city’s future

Colin Basran and Tom Dyas battle it out as the civic election goes down to the wire

Running for re-election is always a two-edged sword.

On one hand, an incumbent can tout his or her record. But that record can be challenged—and, in some cases, may need to be defended.

Depending on the level of public support for an issue, how the incumbent voted can be seen as either a positive or a negative. And that can make him or her the hammer or the nail.

That’s the position current Kelowna Mayor Colin Basran finds himself in as the clock ticks down to Saturday’s civic election.

In 2014 when he was swept into office representing a new, younger, more vigorous face at city hall, Basran promised a city “open for opportunity.” And for the most part, over the last four years, Basran has delivered.

In many ways he represents a cross between the man and woman who came before him as mayor, Walter Gray, viewed by many as a pro-development mayor and the ultimate member of Kelowna’s Old Boys’ Club and Sharon Shepherd, viewed by just as many as anti-development and too focused too much on social issues. Both perceptions were wrong. But popular characterizations are rarely fuelled by fact.

In Basran’s case, he was a seen a fresh new voice on the local political scene—despite having already served one term as a city councillor. Representative of a growing and changing city he was a guy who talked about sustainable development, addressing social issues with a heart, inclusion and creating a city where acceptance and encouragement—for everyone—would be the norm.

Fast forward four years and he’s the political veteran fending off the challenge of three others, including Tom Dyas, a former close friend and past two-term president of the Kelowna Chamber of Commerce.

Dyas says he’s running because he feels city hall is lacking leadership and city hall is not listening to residents.

His campaign mantra, “we can do better,” has become a verbal bludgeon he regularly uses to strike his former friend.

On the campaign trail the two could not be more different.

Basran, armed with stats and the knowledge of what the city has done over the last four years, has been upbeat, energetic and engaged. Dyas, equally as engaged, has come across more measured, less precise in what he would do with the exception of consulting more and listening to the concerns of both individuals and groups in the community.

Privately, people in both camps complain this election campaign has become downright dirty, with personal attacks waged on social media, not by the candidates themselves but by their supporters.

On Saturday, Kelowna voters will decide who will be the city’s next mayor, and in doing so will indicate if they like the direction Basran has led the city or if they feel Dyas is right, and their voices have not been heard. Or could vote for one of the other two men in the race, retired city bylaw officer Bob Schewe or local businessman Bobby Kennedy.

This may not be the “crossroads,” Basran has described it as being, but the election is an important milestone for the city going forward.

That’s why it’s vitally important as many voters as possible participate in the upcoming civic election.

This is your chance to have your say about the type of city you want to live in.

Alistair Waters is the assistant editor of the Capital News.

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