British Columbia

Kelowna mayoral candidates outline their visions for the city in all-candidate forum

Kelowna's four mayoral candidates squared off on topics of homelessness, transportation and leadership in an election debate Monday afternoon.

The future of Kelowna's civic leadership, homelessness and diversity were all up for debate

Kelowna mayoral candidates Bobby Kennedy, Colin Basran, Bob Schewe and Tom Dyas debated leadership, inclusiveness and the issue of homelessness in an election forum hosted by CBC Kelowna and UBC Okanagan. (Brady Strachan/CBC)

Incumbent Mayor Colin Basran's leadership was both criticized and praised at an election debate co-hosted by CBC Kelowna and the University of British Columbia Okanagan on Monday.

The debate between Basran and fellow mayoral candidates Tom Dyas, Bobby Kennedy and Bob Schewe also focused on the issues of homelessness and inclusiveness. 

Dyas came out swinging, telling the audience he decided to run for office to seize hold of what he called "a directionless ship."

Dyas, past president of the Kelowna Chamber of Commerce, said Basran abruptly cancelled meetings with him over the issue of Kelowna's street population and its impact on downtown businesses.

He also accused Basran of not listening to the concerns of everyday citizens.

"I have heard continuously that people have been trying to voice to the mayor, to our city, their concerns. They are not being heard," he said.

Candidate Bob Schewe, a retired bylaw officer, also criticized Basran's leadership. 

"We want to turn around some of the major policies and priorities of city hall, which have taken us down the wrong road," Schewe said.

A plan for homelessness

Basran defended his mayoral record, stating the city has seen strong economic and social growth.

"We have one of the strongest economies in the country, and we are tackling homelessness," said Basran, citing city council's 'Journey Home' strategy, which helps find supportive housing for vulnerable citizens. 

Dyas pitched the idea of developing land outside the city into a ranch for the homeless with housing and supportive services. 

"They will feel safer and we will still be able to establish transportation for them to get them back to the appointments and anything else that they have in the downtown core."

Kennedy seconded the idea but suggesting locating it in a vacant field across from Kelowna's Orchard Park shopping centre.

"We are going to get shipping containers. We are going to put solar panels on them and make this place energy efficient. But you can also farm this [land] too," he said.

Inclusive city

The debate also raised the subject of making Kelowna a more inclusive city — something all candidates agreed upon. 

Tom Dyas pledged to meet with members of marginalized groups to learn what would make them feel more comfortable living in Kelowna.

Basran noted he has shown his support for diversity by being the grand marshal of Kelowna's Pride parade and marching in rallies for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women.

"Part of the role as mayor is to set the tone and say, 'We are going to welcome all' and that is something I want to continue championing," Basran said.

Some of the other candidates acknowledged Basran in this regard.

"He has been rightfully a champion of the rights of everyone and he has embraced all the communities," said Schewe, who told the audience he shares Basran's views on inclusiveness.

About the Author

Brady Strachan

CBC Reporter

Brady Strachan is a CBC reporter based in Kelowna, B.C. Besides Kelowna, Strachan has covered stories for CBC News in Winnipeg, Brandon, Vancouver and internationally. Follow his tweets @BradyStrachan