From right to left: Silverado Socrates (Independent), Norm Letnick (Liberal), John Janmaat (Green) and Kyle Geronazzo (Libertarian). (Twila Amato - Black Press Media)

Kelowna-Lake Country candidates square off at forum

All candidates in the riding were in attendance except for BC NDP candidate Justin Kulik

A forum hosted by the Kelowna Chamber of Commerce brought together four of the five candidates for the Kelowna-Lake Country riding on Tuesday, Oct. 20 to discuss what voters can expect from them should they get elected.

The participating candidates included BC Liberals’ Norm Letnick, BC Greens’ John Janmaat, BC Libertarians’ Kyle Geronazzo and independent Silverado Socrates. BC NDP candidate Justin Kulik declined the participate the night before the event.

On the question of a regional response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the four candidates all said that a regional approach is something that they’re willing to look at should they earn a seat in the legislature, given the different population densities throughout the province.

READ MORE: Meet the candidate: Kelowna-Lake Country – Silverado Socrates (Independent)

“You need to know your constituents, what they want to do… and it goes to reason that it should be done region by region,” Letnick said.

For Green candidate John Janmaat, the question of whether or not a regional approach is appropriate depends on the evidence presented by experts. BC Libertarian candidate Kyle Geronazzo said while a regional approach is preferable, what he wants to see is a stop to the pandemic restrictions on restaurants and businesses.

The candidates were also asked about how each of them will ensure industrial lands are protected, as well as Agricultural Land Reserves (ALR) and residential areas.

Letnick said the key is finding the right balance between different land uses.

READ MORE: Meet the candidate: Kelowna-Lake Country – Norm Letnick (Liberal)

“(We need) to bring all the stakeholders to the conversation and then make sure the public has an opportunity to provide their input on more than one occasion,” he said.

Janmaat said as agricultural land is scarce in the province, protecting what we do have is a must.

“Agriculture is important but at the same time, yes, industry is also an important part and residential land matters and we do need to find a balance so that all those stakeholders are part of the decisions,” he said.

Geronazzo said he didn’t believe the ALR is needed and Socrates said that if ALR issues were to move forward, transparency and honesty are a must.

Regarding transportation issues relating to Highway 97 and improving the highway corridor along Lake Country, Janmaat said while transportation is an important issue, transportation sustainability should also be top of mind.

“Looking at ways that public transit can be enhanced along the corridor… and similarly if we’re able to enhance transit in other places it actually helps reduce the load,” he said.

READ MORE: Meet the candidate: Kelowna-Lake Country – John Janmaat (Green)

Geronazzo said transportation is a complex issue and more people should be involved to speak on it. While Socrates said what needs to happen is for work to be done to motivate people to use public transit less and to drive less.

Letnick outlined the work he has done on highway improvements during his time in office: expanding Highway 33 to four lanes and working on the new part of Highway 97 from Winfield to Oyama, among others. He said there is more to do, including giving people more auto-insurance choices and making Joe Rich safer.

Janmaat responded to Letnick’s résumé.

“You don’t build your way out of congestion. Building more highways, we do need capacity to some degree, but if we over-emphasize just building more highways, expanding bridges, we’re just going to end up with more congestion… and we end up with no real fixes.”

READ MORE: Meet the candidate: Kelowna-Lake Country – Kyle Geronazzo (Libertarian)

When asked about interprovincial trade and if it should be a priority, Geronazzo said free inter-provincial trade is a must and a province blocking should be met with similar measures. Socrates said if a product is good, it will be bought up no matter the restrictions on it. Letnick said we have to recognize other provinces’ goods and if we block their endeavours, they will block ours.

“What we have to do is to collaborate with them and make sure they have a prosperous future,” he said.

Janmaat said while trade is important, we need to look at the environmental impacts of the goods we trade.

The candidates were asked about their strategies to tackle housing affordability. Socrates said homelessness is better prevented than cured, saying that vacant homes in the City of Kelowna should be put through a program where they can be used.

Letnick said affordable housing comes in many shapes and sizes for different income groups but the first thing should be to get rid of the speculation tax. Janmaat said the Green platform includes rental credit like the homeowners’ credit, promotes cooperative housing and non-profit housing.

Geronazzo said housing prices depend on supply and demand, which means land must be freed up, including ending the ALR.

On provincial spending during the pandemic, Geronazzo said what needs to happen is to encourage governments to come under budget instead of over budget. Janmaat said we shouldn’t overburden future generations with debt, but a balanced budget makes economic cycles worse.

Letnick said the Liberal plan to reduce the Provincial Sales Tax (PST) to zero per cent will be enough stimulus for the economy.

Socrates said that this should be looked at in a case by case scenario.

You can watch the full forum online through the chamber’s website.

READ MORE: Meet the candidate: Kelowna-Lake Country – Justin Kulik (NDP)

Twila Amato
Video journalist, Black Press Okanagan
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