All ten candidates for Penticton’s by-election shared their views on how to improve the lives of seniors in Penticton at a forum Sunday, May 30.
Candidate Katie O’Kell said she has a vision of an affordable and attainable Penticton where seniors can feel safe walking and shopping downtown.
James Miller said he stands beside residents of downtown retirement homes Charles Manor and Cherry Park that have had to live beside the Victory Church shelter since November 2020.
“Eby’s efforts are appalling and a slap in the face to our veterans,” said Miller who supports city council’s fight against B.C. Minister of Housing David Eby on the shelter issue.
Candidate Steve Brown told the Zoom meeting that because he is 70, he too is a senior.
“Affordable housing for seniors just makes sense. I’d like to turn Penticton into the retirement capital of B.C.,” Brown said.
Brown continued to say Penticton requires two things: Support for our bylaws and police and for the Victory Church shelter to be moved to an alternative location.
Local lawyer Amelia Boultbee said 50 per cent of her case load is working with Canadian veterans living on a fixed income.
“Many seniors tell me it feels increasingly unsafe with unclean public washrooms in Penticton,” she said. “They deserve to feel safe and we need to increase police officers.”
James Blake said he was homeless for a time as a teenager.
“When you are days without food, sleep and a shower you turn to things like crime. So we do need to get people into shelters but maybe we build one in the industrial area,” said Blake.
Jason Cox, who ran for mayor in the last municipal election, said he was the primary caregiver to his aunt for ten years while she was in her 80s.
Cox thinks one of the key issues is that council is currently has a reactive approach opposed to a proactive one.
“We need a made in Penticton plan and to work with service providers of shelters and housing. And no discussion about us without us,” Cox said.
Included in his made in Penticton plan would be zoning changes so BC Housing “couldn’t buy land and tell us what they are doing with it after,” he said.
Candidate Kate Hansen, a newly retired RCMP officer, said all agencies involved in shelters and housing need to held responsible.
“Included in that is Interior Health needs to be held accountable as does the provincial government,” Hansen said. “We need police and bylaws working together. Police are working very hard but they don’t have charge approval after they arrest people. That is up to Crown.”
Isaac Gilbert, a park ranger, would like to see the city create a housing authority.
“I’d like us to protect mobile home parks for seniors. I’d want to make sure the parks are zoned in a way that someone can’t just buy them and covert them.”
Keith MacIntyre said adding more police officers is not the solution.
“RCMP is the most bureaucratic operation,” he said. He said seniors deserve to be at the table when making decisions about Penticton.
“Seniors haven’t been part of the conversation and they deserve to be at the table making decisions for themselves,” MacIntyre said.
When asked how the candidates would protect greenspace yet grow the economy, Brownlee, the president of Protect Penticton Parks Society, was the most eager to reply.
“The city keeps trying to commercialize Skaha Park and bring alcohol into the park,” she said. She wants parks to be preserved greenspace.
Hansen said seniors and all the public deserve to enjoy the parks and beaches free of needles, glass and garbage.
“I cherish our green spaces. We need to care for them but we need the city to keep them clean,” she said.
Boultbee is born and raised in Penticton and had a lot of greenspace to explore growing up.
“We shouldn’t infringe on the agricultural land reserve (ALR) or parks. But a lot of people believe the Vinterra housing project was in the ALR but it wasn’t. I would develop it.”
All candidates felt transit should be free for seniors.
The by-election is June 19.
The seniors’ all-candidates meeting was organized by Penticton Seniors Action Committee, Penticton Seniors’ Drop-In Centre Society, South Okanagan Seniors Wellness Society as well as OneSky Community Resources.