Waters: Too soon to pass judgement on Kelowna’s ‘new’ council

With just a year under it's belt, much of what the council has presided over is a result of the previous council's work.

Municipal politicians in B.C. have long said the three-year terms they are elected to are more like two-years when it comes to getting things done.

That’s because for many newly-elected mayors and councillors, the first year is taken up with a steep learning curve.

Next week marks the one-year anniversary of Kelowna’s current city council, a group made up of just three returnees from the previous council.

Sure, Mayor Walter Gray has plenty of local government experience, having served in the job for nine years prior to losing the 2005 election to Sharon Shepherd. But he was out of the picture for six years. And five of the eight current councillors who serve with him are rookies—Coun. Colin Basran, Mohini Singh, Maxine DeHart, Gail Given and Gerry Zimmermann. The only incumbents—Robert Hobson, Luke Stack and Andre Blanleil—won re-election. And when it comes to acting, it seems the five rookies take their lead from them.

So, after a year on the job, how is this “new” council doing?

Given the close results in voting and the acrimonious tone of the election, chances are the answer will differ depending on who you ask.

The current council came into power riding what appeared to be desire by many for change at city hall.

For many voters unhappy with what they perceived as a council that talked more than it acted, the change was needed to kick-start a sputtering local economy. Aided by a privately funded push that targeted four incumbent councillors for defeat, the election, especially for mayor, took on a nasty tone not seen here before. And, in the end, residents received a re-made council.

But in many ways it has yet to live up to the promise.

In fairness, the first term for any council is a tough one. Like it or not, it rides on the coattails of its predecessor when it comes to completing projects. Most of the photo-ops celebrating the completion of work—or the groundbreaking of projects—are thanks to plans hatched and finalized by the previous council.

Projects like the start of the Bernard Avenue revitalization, the completion of the new seniors’ centre, downtown development plans, an expansion of transit, road and bridge work and the addition of a new international arrival hall at the airport were all on the drawing board when the current council came to power one year ago. The big exception is the planned downtown Interior Health office tower project, along with its associated parkade.

But you can’t fault a council for continuity—or give it the credit either. Showing up to smile for the camera at a ribbon-cutting is not the same as planning the project. The real test for the current council will be in a year’s time when the plans it is working on now start to materialize.

Alistair Waters is the assistant editor of the Capital News.



Kelowna Capital News

Just Posted

Fruit farmers in the Okanagan and Creston valleys are in desperate need of cherry harvesters amid COVID-19 work shortages. (Photo: Unsplash/Abigail Miller)
‘Desperate’ need for workers at Okanagan cherry farms

Fruit farmers are worried they’ll have to abandon crops due to COVID-19 work shortages

Earls On Top at 211 Bernard Avenue in Kelowna. (Google Maps photo)
Downtown Kelowna’s Earls ordered closed after COVID-19 transmission

Earls on Top on Bernard Avenue will be closed from June 18 to June 27

Danny Fulton receives his first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine at the Coast Capri Hotel on April 27. The pop-up clinic was hosted by the First Nations Health Authority. (Aaron Hemens/Capital News)
Drop-in COVID-19 vaccine clinic planned for Kelowna

Clinic at Kelowna Secondary School from June 22 to 24 from 1 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.

Dereck Donald Sears. (Contributed/Crimestoppers)
Murder charge laid in relation to suspicious Kelowna death

Dereck Donald Sears is charged with second-degree murder in the death of Darren Middleton

A motorycle crash has been reported on Westside Road. (Google Maps)
UPDATE: Westside Road reopened following motorcycle crash near Vernon

AIM Roads advises drivers to expect delays due to congestion

A small pod of Pacific white-sided dolphins pass by close to shore in Campbell River June 16, 2021. Still capture from video courtesy of Kimberly Hart
VIDEO: Dolphin sunset captured from Vancouver Island shore

Spectacular setting for view of travelling pod of Pacific white-sided dolphins

Jeanette Megens
KCR: Volunteering is sharing your story

Kelowna Community Resources shares stories of its volunteers in a weekly column

(File photo)
Penticton not holding Canada Day activities out of respect for Indigenous people

Cities across B.C. are cancelling the holiday after an increased spotlight on Canada’s dark history

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Police are asking for public assistance in locating Anthony Graham who has been charged with the murders of Kamloops brothers Carlo and Erick Fryer. (RCMP photo)
2 charged, suspect at large in killings of B.C. brothers linked to gang activity: RCMP

Kamloops brothers Erick and Carlo Fryer were found deceased in May on a remote Okanagan road

Albert Health Minister Tyler Shandro and Alberta Premier Jason Kenney unveil an opening sign after speaking about the Open for Summer Plan and next steps in the COVID-19 vaccine rollout, in Edmonton, Friday, June 18, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Alberta 1st province in Canada to lift all COVID-19 public health restrictions

70.2% of eligible citizens 12 and older in the province have received a dose of the vaccine

Fraser Health registered nurse Ramn Manan draws a dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine into a syringe at a walk-up vaccination clinic at Bear Creek Park, in Surrey, B.C., on Monday, May 17, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
‘Honour our fathers’ with COVID-19 vaccine protection, B.C. urges

109 new cases Friday, 75 per cent of 12 and up immunized

(Paul Henderson/ Chilliwack Progress)
Trutch Avenue in Chilliwack to be renamed to remove racist taint

New name to have Indigenous significance as Chilliwack takes new step toward reconciliation

Most Read