Kelowna city council is not only going to look different next year, it is also going to act different.
With two long-time stalwarts—Robert Hobson and Andre Blanleil—missing from the council table, Walter Gray vacating the mayor’s chair and at least one other councillor —Colin Basran jettisoning his council seat for a shot at the mayor’s job, there will be plenty of openings for new faces.
And the number of vacancies may increase depending on the decision Coun. Gerry Zimmermann makes about his political future.
Factor all that in with the arrival of the first municipal political party, the three-candidate Taxpayer First, and as Bob Dylan once wrote,the times they are a changin’.
But while the vacancies are a done deal, the election of former councillors Carol Gran and Graeme James, along with newcomer Dale Olson under the Taxpayer First banner is far from a slam dunk.
Running on a platform that calls for a four-year tax freeze, the trio will have to convince voters that short-term gain for potential long-term pain is worth it.
While the trio cites plenty of “fat” at city hall that can be trimmed to make up the loss of tax revenue, opponents can point to other nearby jurisdictions that have tried the taxation free lunch approach to show some spectacular failures.
In Vernon they tried it several years ago and at the end of the multi-year residential property tax free, taxpayers found themselves staring down the barrel of a proposed tax hike north of 20 per cent.
But while talk of a four-year tax freeze may be a vote-getter in some circles, without help from other councillors and whoever becomes mayor, the trio—if elected—will need help to deliver on their promise. At least five votes are needed for anything to pass at council and will any newcomers want to jump on no-tax bandwagon? It’s unlikely any returning councillor would vote for such a move as there has not been any talk of a freeze by the folks currently sitting at the council table.
The loss of Hobson and Blanleil, however, will make a difference. The two longest serving councillors at city hall will be missed as much for their knowledge as their respective positions on issue. While Hobson has been seen as more left of centre