Kelowna voters say stick with who they know

Return of incumbents viewed as endorsement of current administration

With Saturday’s civic election result in Kelowna, residents can expect more of the same from city hall.

That’s because the result—Mayor Colin Basran and all seven of the incumbent councillors who ran being re-elected—is clearly being viewed on Water Street as a vote for the status quo.

The only change is the introduction of Loyal Wooldridge in the eighth councillor chair, replacing Tracy Gray who is pursing the federal Conservative nomination in Kelowna-Lake Country.

So, while it is said nothing is as constant as change, in the case of Kelowna 2018, change was not in the air.

On Saturday night, as he basked in his convincing win in what turned into an ugly fight for the mayor’s chair, Basran said given the numbers, it was hard not to see the result as anything but an endorsement of the both the direction the city is moving in, and the men and women leading it in that direction.

Sure, there were issues raised during the campaign, but they were not new. Safety, crime and addiction issues downtown, the lack of affordable housing and the city’s transportation problems did not make their debut in the last few weeks. They needed city hall’s attention before the election campaign started, and they still do.

But, as he showed during the campaign, Basran was the only mayoral candidate who acknowledged what the city is already doing and how those plans will now need to be implemented.

Four years ago when he was first elected mayor, Basran—despite his previous four years as a councillor—was an untried commodity for voters. He promised change—particulalry social change—and along with council delivered.

This time around voters knew what he offered and that was not the old-school Kelowna, conservative view that city residents may have been used to at city hall (with obvious exceptions from time to time). His liberal view on social issues, mixed with enough pro-business and pro-development sentiment to keep folks on that side of the equation happy were enough to get him elected not once but twice.

And the second time he handily beat out a former two-term Kelowna Chamber of Commerce president who seemed, at the start, to have the backing of many in the business community.

But Kelowna has changed dramatically over the last 10 years and Basran’s election is a symbol of that. Movers and shakers may have suported Dyas, But they could not deliver the votes needed for him to win.

Four years ago, Basran vowed the city would be “open for opportunity.” This time around he promised “a balanced way forward.” Voters bought into his vision both times—on Saturday by a 2:1 margin over his closest challenger.

But as Basran was quick to point out on the campaign trail, plans are already in place to help move the city forward an they will have to be implemented under the next council.

So with eight returning voices around the council table, and the addition of a like-minded soul in Wooldridge, voters made a statement Saturday. And that statement was steady as she goes.

Alistair Waters is the assistant editor of the Capital News