The 10 candidates in the by-election to replace Jake Kimberley’s spot on city council had their shot to share thoughts on business at the Penticton and Wine Country Chamber of Commerce forum.
The forum was sponsored by the Interior Realtors Association and broadcast by Hek Yeah Media on Thursday, May 27, and all 10 candidates were on hand to answer the questions from the chamber and members of the business community.
Questions ranged from how to encourage people to get vaccinated to how the council can help attract and keep new businesses in the community.
Kate Hansen called for promoting tourism and public safety as a means of attracting people and business to the community.
“If people don’t feel safe, they aren’t going to come here,” said Hansen.
The question on the Kampe Property and the rejected proposal for two five-storey apartments received a wide range of comments and ideas.
Issac Gilbert said he would have supported the proposal going further, to where the city would be able to have more say on what would be allowed on the property.
“The next stage we would have been able to put in restrictions on traffic and noise to make sure residents there feel welcome and that they’re not an intrusion into the neighbourhood,” said Gilbert.
James Blake proposed splitting the difference between those who wanted more residences and those who wanted a park, going so far as to consider perhaps having a single 15-storey apartment building with the rest of the area converted to green space as he pointed to a lack of space for the city to expand out to.
“I think we’re going to have to face the fact that we’re going to need targeted high rises if we’re to grow,” said Blake.
Amelia Boultbee took issue with Blake’s comments on high rise buildings as not matching the feeling of the community.
“I think development into the hillsides, carriage houses, duplexes and other multi-family housing is preferable,” said Boultbee.
When it came to housing, Karen Brownlee called for a better definition of what constitutes affordable housing, and expressed the feeling that city had a supply of rentals available.
“There are places to rent, you may not be able to get a place because you have a big dog,” said Brownlee. “You may be having the money to rent, but be choosing to spend it on cigarettes, alcohol and other things that eat up your income.
Unsurprisingly, the question on how to address safety and concerns from small business owners drew the most discussion of the night.
Boultbee called on getting more RCMP officers immediately to reduce the caseload the Penticton detachment faces, as well as support the call for additional bylaw officers.
James Miller supported the city’s call for an audit of BC Housing and their supportive housing facility in the community. He also called out the province and Interior Health for pulling funding to Pathways Addiction Centre.
“Once upon a time there was citizens on patrol, I’d like to see that reinstated,” said Miller.
Jason Cox called on ensuring the province uphold their side in ensuring street-level support, as well as hiring officers trained to handle issues of mental health, addiction.
Katie O’Kell disagreed with having additional bylaw officers and called for additional RCMP officers, and more involvement of former criminals in more constructive and social programs. She also noted that due to the short term for the available council seat, one of her focuses if elected would be on tackling crime.
Hansen echoed the calls for additional RCMP and for a unified approach to housing, mental health and other issues.
Gilbert supported challenging the province on bring supports to the community and called for additional housing to get more people off the streets.
Blake called for a change in priorities in council to be more on the people in the community.
“We’re coming out of a pandemic and suicide rates and drug addiction rates are off the chain, and they’re willing to spend $8 to $10 million on a bike lane,” said Blake” At this point in time that money, at least some of it, needs to be redirected to the mental health of people in the city.”
Each candidate also had their chance at the beginning and end of the forum to showcase elements from their platform. Most of those platforms focused on what the candidates would do as councillor for businesses while in one case, it was what they wouldn’t do.
“I don’t believe it’s the role of city council to extend the busy season or to interfere in business at all,” said Keith MacIntyre, when he was asked how the city could expand the busy season to be all-year-round. “The best thing city council can do is reduce taxes ”
MacIntyre said the biggest issue for the city was the provincial government, and that government shouldn’t be involved in housing at all.
The election takes place on June 19. Early voting days include June 6, 12 and 16.
Also on the ballot will be a referendum question regarding whether to consider allowing a contract for up to 25 years to run the Skaha Marina.
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