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Basran booed at Chamber of Commerce mayoral forum

Tom Dyas, left, and Mayor Colin Basran at mayoralty forum in Kelowna.

As municipal election day approaches, the two frontrunners for the Kelowna’s mayor’s job are getting nasty.

The format at a Kelowna Chamber of Commerce mayoralty forum today, Oct. 4, allowed Mayor Colin Basran and his main rival, Tom Dyas, to briefly go toe-to-toe.

A key issue was Basran’s assertion that his connections with senior government have been essential to getting things for the city.

“The idea that only one mayor has connections in provincial and federal government is absurd,” Dyas said. “I have had great opportunity over the years, in working on the Chamber of Commerce, to deal with MPs, MLAs, ministers and to be able to communicate with them. Kelowna is the largest city in the Interior. It has a voice but it ends up that voice has not been used properly.”

Basran challenged Dyas, a former chamber president, on that point.

“Relationships take time to build,” Basran said. “While I appreciate that Mr. Dyas lobbied one time, five years ago, to the federal Minister of Finance it was only to protect his own business interests as a result of potential tax changes.”

That triggered loud boos from the sparse crowd of mostly chamber members at the Mary Irwin Theatre.

The format did not allow Dyas to respond at that point as there were five candidates on the stage.

READ MORE: Challenger Tom Dyas wins over crowd at Kelowna mayoral forum

Those weren’t the only shots the two rivals took at each other.

Dyas refers to Kelowna as the crime capital of Canada, which Basran took exception to, arguing that, while the Central Okanagan as a whole has the highest crime rate of any large urban centre, Kelowna on its own ranks as the 14th worst in B.C. and 54th worst in Canada.

“So, you have to ask yourself, is leadership really about tarnishing our city’s brand in order to make yourself look good or is it about actually working to find solutions like dealing with repeat offenders and recognizing that, yes we have a problem, but we are actually implementing and advocating for change as opposed to just utilizing misinformation to make yourself look good,” Basran said.

That, in turn, was challenged by Dyas who said Basran was taking the crime statistics out of context.

“It takes Stats Canada – they’re the ones who gave us this information,” Dyas said. “It was not me producing this information. He’s trying to mislead voters and discredit people’s experiences. One in four residents in Kelowna tell me they’ve experienced crimes.”

READ MORE: Kelowna school trustees lash out at 'dangerous disinformation' on sexual orientation material

During the closing comments, Basran painted a scenario of a business wanting to set up shop in two cities and travelling to each to meet the mayor.

One had a mayor who does nothing but complain about how unsafe his city is and how high the taxes are.

“The next day, they head out to city number two and the mayor there spends his entire time raving about the great things happening in that city but he does not shy away from explaining his city is facing some challenges,” Basran said, asking the audience to guess which city the business chose.

That didn’t deter Dyas from reiterating his claim that Kelowna is the crime capital of Canada.

“We can sit up here and throw dirt,” he said. “But the reality of it is the ground that you’re standing on becomes smaller and smaller when you throw that dirt."

The next mayoralty forum is being hosted by the Canadian Homebuilders Association on Oct. 12.

Municipal election day is Oct. 15.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Rob Munro or call 250-808-0143 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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