B.C. Election 2020: B.C. Liberals look safe again in Kelowna-West riding | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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B.C. Election 2020: B.C. Liberals look safe again in Kelowna-West riding

Candidates for Kelowna West.
Image Credit: Facebook
October 23, 2020 - 7:00 PM

Kelowna West — a strangely drawn riding that encompasses West Kelowna, Westbank First Nation and a narrow chunk of downtown Kelowna — has long shown allegiance to right-of-centre politics.

That was never more clear than when former B.C. Liberal Premier Christy Clark parachuted into the riding in 2013, pushing then-MLA Ben Stewart to the sidelines. Her win was largely considered a sure thing and Clark seemed to know that it was less about her and more about the area. She tapped into the region's history and trotted out a phrase that is hard to escape in this part of the valley.

The riding, and Kelowna in general, she said is the "cradle of free enterprise."

There's historically been a higher proportion of small businesses in the area, but political leanings may go back even further. The first wave of European settlers to the valley were from religious and conservative strongholds, which some have said left a legacy with how people are politically socialized.

And that ultimately paved the way for two premiers from the area being elected — former Social Credit party Premiers W.A.C. Bennett and Bill Bennett. W.A.C. Bennett held the riding for more than 20 years, and his son Bill Bennett, was also premier from 1975 to 1986.

There are also current demographics at play — the Okanagan has an outsized number of retirees, often considered to be more conservative than younger people.

Demographics

Since 2006, the Central Okanagan has seen population increases in most age categories, with youth and young adult population growth surpassing the provincial and national averages, according to Statistics Canada Census information from 2016.

That said, 21.4 per cent of the area's residents are over the age of 65. Provincially, the proportion is 18.3 per cent. Unsurprisingly, health care is one of the main economic drivers in the region, alongside education, construction, agriculture and tourism.

While the region remains popular with retirees, the Central Okanagan's Economic Development Commission said there's been above-average growth in the 25-34 demographic "as young professionals and families are drawn to the region’s career opportunities and relative lifestyle affordability."

That may be even more the case today than it was when the report was penned, as in recent years the population has boomed and industries, like tech, have shown growing power.

Westbank First Nation

Westbank First Nation, one of eight Okanagan Nation communities, has been self-governing since 2005. Although in close proximity to the City of West Kelowna and Kelowna, its administration operates independently. According to the WFN, there are 855 WFN members, 60 per cent of whom live on reserve; 40 per cent live off reserve.

There are around 10,000 non-WFN residents who live in the area.

The WFN has long been lauded for its economic successes and there are 485 businesses on its lands, including big box stores, clinics and major financial institutions.

Kelowna West boundaries.
Kelowna West boundaries.
Image Credit: Elections BC

Today's issues:

Changing population pressures may contribute to some of the growing pains expressed by local mayors, which include Kelowna Mayor Colin Basran and West Kelowna Mayor Gord Milsom.

According to Basran, housing shortcomings could use some extra attention.

“There is not enough housing in our communities that is affordable for the people who live and work in them. This situation is also causing economic fallout for businesses who are struggling to recruit and retain workers," Basran said at a recent meeting.

"We need all parties to commit to accelerating investments in housing, simplifying the funding application process, balancing renters’ needs with those of landlords, and ensuring a regulatory and fiscal climate that prioritizes the type of housing that we actually need.”

West Kelowna Gord Milsom put his focus on some long-term West Kelowna issues, including everything from housing to roads.

“City of West Kelowna Council remains committed to strengthening our partnership with the province and looks forward to working with the B.C. government on key files throughout their next mandate, including an end to the Speculation and Vacancy Tax in West Kelowna, a second transmission line to provide power reliability to the Westside, long term affordable and social housing solutions and Highway 97 upgrades that would improve the safety and flow of traffic, cycling and transit through the community,” Milsom said.

Do voters show up?

While people talk a good game, the question is always about whether they will show up at the polls on election day — or, as the case may be in a pandemic — mail off their ballot well in advance.

When Christy Clark gave up her seat in 2018, voter turnout in Kelowna West was at 31.5 per cent and Ben Stewart was reelected. By-elections often garner less interest, but in the 2017 general election, Kelowna West had a 55.46 per cent turnout rate, according to Elections B.C.

In the 2013 by-election, when MLA Ben Stewart gave up his seat for Clark, voter turnout was at 40.84 per cent.

Who to vote for in Kelowna West?

Matt Badura, Libertarian

Born in 1982 in Poland, Badura was exposed at a young age to what a communist government entails. He says his non-communist parents faced persecution and escaped in the mid 80s. After a couple years of living in a refugee camp he and his family arrived in Canada and started a new life in Calgary.

Badura completed his bilingual studies and later worked in the banking industry. He later completed courses in Construction Management and moved on to work for a property manager co-ordinating capital projects. Later he worked as a project manager in the roofing industry and as a roofing inspector, before moving to the Okanagan.

Spring Hawes, BC NDP

Spring Hawes is a mortgage broker in the Okanagan, as well as owning and managing several commercial properties. She has served three years as board director for Interior Health and is also a board member of the local non-profit Accessible Okanagan. She served two terms as councillor in local government, participating in and leading multiple committees and working groups. She was also the president of an accessibility advocacy group for seven years. 

She incurred a spinal cord injury 15 years ago in a mountain bike accident and has been a wheelchair user since then.

Hawes was raised in the Okanagan, and both her children were born here. After spending some years away, she returned in 2017.

Magee Mitchell, Independent

Mitchell studied Political Science at Trent University and upon graduation took a job with an environmental firm. He has a passion for the mountains and the incredible skiing B.C. is known for. He drove across the country and took a job as a Pool Maintenance Technician at Panorama, also dabbling in Ski Patrol and golf course maintenance. After a fun stint there, he met a woman and had a daughter and decided to move to Kelowna to join his parents who had also moved from Ottawa.

His professional experience includes Class 1 driving for the oil and gas industry, a concrete pump operator for a local concrete company, food services and dishwasher at Kelowna General Hospital and now most recently working for an accounting firm in downtown Kelowna.

He said it's his experience in these industries that sets him apart.

Ben Stewart, BC Liberal Party - incumbent

Ben Stewart was elected MLA for Westside-Kelowna in 2009 and 2013. He was re-elected in a by-election in 2018 in the riding of Kelowna-West.

Stewart previously served as Minister of Citizens' Services, Minister of Community and Rural Development, Minister of Agriculture, and as Government Whip. He served on the Special Committees on Cosmetic Pesticides and Timber Supply, and as the Ministerial representative on Treasury Board, the Priorities and Planning, and the Legislative Review Committees.

He also has been a board member for numerous organizations such as the Kelowna General Hospital Foundation and Okanagan College. He was also a founding director of a venture capital fund for local business development in British Columbia.

In 1989, he founded and built Quail’s Gate into one of Canada’s leading estate wineries. Later, under his leadership as chair of VQA Canada, that organization successfully resolved a number of significant issues such as International trademark protection and international mutual recognition agreements.

Peter A Truch, BC Green Party

Peter A. Truch has spent 20 years developing his skills as a professional transportation engineer on projects at a local, national, and international level, He has extensive experience in reliable planning, community building and sustainable engineering that puts people first. Truch said he loves learning new languages, is fluent in English, French and German, and has begun learning the Syilx language as a way to honour living on the traditional and unceded territory of the Syilx First Nation.

He's served as an advisor of many government agencies and small businesses. He has been elected to lead an international organization in his profession, worked within government as an employee, and runs his own consulting practice working with numerous B.C. and Alberta municipalities, the Port of Vancouver, several privately-owned business, and non-profit entities.

A proud, single father, Peter found the motivation to run for MLA in his two young boys, working hard to provide them the brightest future he can. 


To contact a reporter for this story, email Kathy Michaels or call 250-718-0428 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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