As UBC Okanagan (UBCO) President Dr. Lesley Cormack put it “our next mayor is in the room.”
The first municipal election forum featuring five Kelowna mayoral candidates was held Wednesday (Sept. 28), hosted by UBCO and Okanagan College (OC).
Given that two of the candidates went head-to-head in the 2018 mayoral campaign, another is a nightclub manager and a boxing coach, a fourth, in the race for the worship title, is someone who ran against former B.C. Premier Christy Clark and the fifth on the podium is someone who already ran, and lost, against the incumbent – you’d be justified in thinking there would be some drama, there was not.
Spectators packed OC’s Student Services auditorium to hear Colin Basran, Tom Dyas, David Habib, Glendon Charles Smedley and Silverado Socrates square off on several topics suggested by students.
Basran and Dyas pitted themselves against each other four years ago, following a flawed friendship. It’s Habib’s first mayoral campaign. Smedley ran for mayor in 2014, and Socrates was one of seven candidates who ran against Clark in an oddly “step aside” byelection back in 2013.
Of the more than 200 in attendance, the crowd appeared more animated than the candidates, as those on stage kept their composure. There was none of the sniping or heated personal exchanges that election forums can sometimes devolve into. There was only some back-and-forth between candidates on affordable housing and crime. There was also a common understanding and a promise to do better on Truth and Reconciliation.
“We need to be looking at everything we do as a community through an Indigenous lens,” said Basran. “I believe that reconciliation and good relationships with our Indigenous partners are absolutely crucial if we’re to move forward as a community.”
With a possible transit strike set to start Oct. 5, Habib, who spoke passionately on several topics, said a mayor has a responsibility to step forward and work closely with both sides to reach a deal.
“We can’t afford to go without a bus service, we have to get them back to the table. I have two people that work for me that are transit drivers…and they’re both saying they make more money working at a club, added Habib.
One of the biggest issues on the minds of students, as it is for many voters, was affordable housing.
“We can reduce some of the barriers in our municipality to start to build back townhomes, secondary suites, and carriage homes,” said Dyas. “We need to make it so it’s affordable for individuals to look at building those secondary residences.”
Right after that, candidates were asked about how Kelowna could expand in a sustainable way.
“Work with the Society of Hope and BC Housing, and with the community,” said Smedley. “Learn from each other to see how we could move forward to create a sustainable city.”
One of the tougher questions the candidates faced asked what could be done to address homelessness in Kelowna, which hasn’t already been done.
“This is a big part of my wanting to run,” said Socrates. “Homelessness and addictions are better prevented than cured. We’ve got a boat with a hole in it out, and there’s a reason why people are getting tired.
The entire forum, which was moderated by CBC Radio Kelowna’s Sarah Penton, can be viewed on the UBC Okanagan YouTube channel.