The Kelowna municipal election may mean little for the 60 to 70 per cent of residents who won’t vote for a mayor and councillors, but it’s absolutely vital for one resident of the Central Okanagan Regional District.
If developer Mark Consiglio hopes to achieve any of his dreams of developing Kelowna Mountain into a profitable ski hill or a residential development or a network of suspension bridges or a ‘wine park’— his path leads straight to this next council.
Kelowna councillors make up the majority at the regional district which governs his lands. And if any real development is going to occur there, it will likely need City water and sewer. That comes with the price of joining the City. Then, if it will truly be “the region’s #1 tourism attraction"—and it could be with some of the valley’s most stunning views—The City will want to know Consiglio’s plan for getting scores of people through the Mission to the mountain on Kelowna's south slopes.
Either way, Consiglio has a date due with this council. Or the next one or the one after that, I suppose. And if you are familiar with any of the history of this project, you know playing with others isn’t in the DNA.
So for a majority, he needs five people on council who will support him. And that happens to be exactly how many members of TaxpayersFirst, Kelowna’s first-ever slate. Among their candidates are former councillor Carol Gran, who worked directly for Kelowna Mountain as a consultant and Dale Olson who sold shares for an early iteration of the project.
Kelowna Mountain and Mark Consiglio publicly endorse the five members of TaxpayersFirst.
Their campaign's first splash? A promise to pillage and all but disband the regional district which by coincidence is the legislative body that set Kelowna Mountain back years by refusing to sanction millions of dollars in developments on the property when it passed the Official Community Plan for the area.
But where it gets really curious is how Consiglio is operating behind the scenes and a curious meeting he attended at the Knights of Columbus Hall in Rutland on Sunday, Nov. 2.
Several members of Kelowna’s Indo-Canadian community gathered and invited a select group of candidates to speak. The list included school board candidate Nicholas Aubin, who said he got a “last-minute invite,” all members of TaxpayersFirst—and Sharon Shepherd, former mayor and current candidate.
And there to hear Sharon Shepherd answer questions about the taxi cab industry, was Mark Consiglio.
One person in attendance said Consiglio took the mic and encouraged everyone to support the candidates present. When asked about the meeting, Aubin abruptly hung up the phone. Calls to the meeting’s organizer were promised but not returned. Consiglio never returned calls either.
Shepherd said Consiglio approached her that night and he spoke of some of his plans and frustrations. She confirmed that he supported her for election but only “unofficially.” She said he offered to contribute cash to her campaign but she declined, as she does all developer contributions.
Asked why she thought Consiglio supported her, Shepherd said: “I guess because I am open to dialogue. I go in with an open mind on any project and I try to work through conflict if possible…. I am always open to dialogue with the development community."
“The visionary aspect of his project is there. Whether it is achievable or not, he is going to have to work very hard with local government to achieve what he wants to achieve,” she added. "My perception is that some of the work that he has done should have been recognized (in the Official Community Plan)."
Her support for Kelowna Mountain in whatever form it takes next is no sure thing. Shepherd’s ethics and integrity as a politician are unassailable. But to Kelowna Mountain, she has a good shot at winning the mayor’s chair and that would insulate the project from one more council member who Consiglio shouted down at a public hearing—mayoral candidate Colin Basran.
Consiglio wants all the incumbents—“the old ways of city politics”—gone. In a release, he said Kelowna Mountain has “often been subjected to the painful processes that too much bureaucracy engenders” then implies they are “a few ‘movers and shakers’ who want to continue to exert their influence over regional politics.”
This is definitely an important election for Consiglio and Kelowna Mountain.
Who says local politics isn’t interesting?
— Marshall Jones is the editor of Infonews.ca