Carli Berry/Capital News Kelowna residents listen to a mayoral debate Tuesday at the Coast Capri Hotel and Conference Centre.

Kelowna mayoral forum covers familiar territory and far-out ideas

Candidates mostly play nice at Kelowna Chamber of Commerce debate

Tom Dyas has some big plans for the city.

If elected Kelowna’s next mayor, he wants the city to consider creating its own police force to replace the RCMP, build a new city hall, along with a replacement for the Water Street Fire Hall, and include subsidized housing in the project. He would also like to replace the existing city hall with a new performing arts centre and conference centre.

That’s not all.

He also wants to join with a local family trust to have a ranch built on the outskirts of town to house the city’s homeless.

Dyas proceeded to reel off his list of projects when closing out his appearance at Monday’s Chamber of Commerce mayoral forum.

“A good mayor needs a clear long and short-term vision and he needs to work as part of a team,” said Dyas.

But his list of expensive projects brought quick rebuke from the man he is trying to unseat, incumbent Mayor Colin Basran.

“And he’s going to do all that and spend less money?” said Basran before making his closing remarks in which he said he is concerned “Trump-style politicking” is creeping into the current Kelowna civic election, a thinly veiled reference to repeated accusations by Dyas that leadership is lacking at city hall and that “we can do better.”

Defending his record, Basran pointed to a “booming” economy in the city, accolades Kelowna has received for being a business-friendly city from a number of provincial and national business organizations, the city’s work to address homelessness and diversity and its financial management.

“Strong leadership means making tough decisions and continuing to move Kelowna forward, together,” said Basran.

Following the forum, Dyas said despite calling for city hall and the Water Street Fire Hall to be relocated, he did not have any land in mind. But he said he feels the current city hall site could be better used for a performing arts centre and conference centre.

As for a city police force to replace the RCMP, Dyas said his proposal to look at the option was not a knock on the job the RCMP is currently doing.

The issue of crime downtown came up a few times, with candidate Bob Schewe, a retired city bylaw officer weighing in. He said there are two types of street people in the city, those who are simply homeless and want to work and those who commit petty crimes and do not want to work or be helped.

He said the latter should be made “unwelcome.”

The fourth candidate in the race, downtown business owner Bobby Kennedy, said he feels the city has enough police officers but they are not being used properly. He said officers need to patrol the downtown on foot.

“Get them out of their cars,” he said.

He also wants the city to capitalize on cannabis legalization and bring in a “city cannabis tax” that could help fund a number of different city initiatives and infrastructure.

He said his campaign is focused on the city making money, not looking for it from residents in the form of higher taxes.

But many who showed up at the lunch-hour mayoral forum, were there to see Basran and Dyas, two former good friends and acknowledged front-runners in the four-way race. Given the format, they did not have a chance to square off against each other, but they both got shots in, even if they were somewhat veiled.

Dyas opened his remarks by thanking Basran and the current city council for their “dedication and service” over the last four years, but quickly added he is concerned about leadership at city hall.

“We are drifting in a direction that I am uncertain of, and I am not sure who is leading the ship,” he said.

Later, Basran said leadership was not just about telling people what they want to hear, a response to Dyas saying he does not feel Kelowna residents and business-people are being heard at city hall.

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