The Kelowna municipal election has truly taken a turn for the bizarre courtesy of the City’s first political slate.
If you haven’t been keeping track, nearly every day Taxpayers First has one-upped itself on pie-in-the-sky goodies that make American politics look sane and orderly.
Already they’ve made hundreds of millions of dollars in promises along with its stated raison d’etre: No tax increases for four years. They came out of the gate looking like a credible conservative crew. Then their five members packed themselves into their clown car and started handing out balloon animals and lollipops across the city.
First they proposed shutting down the regional district and building a massive building at the site of the KLO offices. Then they proposed buying the Kelowna portion of the $50 million CN rail line. They promised to spend $5 million in Rutland. Then they promised to give $5 million of Kelowna taxpayers money to upgrade the Southeast Kelowna Irrigation District, which the city doesn’t even own.
They claim they will pay for all these promises with what they call profitable public-private partnerships, which at worst aren’t legal and at best would commit Kelowna taxpayers to these projects into the next ice age.
But Monday took the cake.
In addition to promising a 2,500-seat theatre, they proposed building a moat, er, canals throughout downtown, again with the same expensive conceptual drawings.
Now think about that for a minute. The downtown’s underground infrastructure — sewer lines, water lines, electrical, cable and roads would all have to be dug up and re-routed or moved. Their drawings show the new Queensway bus loop under water.
It’s also likely impossible. Downtown Kelowna is built on fine glacial till. To build the Delta Grand hotel — above ground — required a year of compaction and vibro-compaction just to make the soils stable and force out the moisture. Now they think we can dig canals throughout downtown?
How again do they propose to pay for this without tax increases? By partnering with developers! Sell land! Long-term agreements! WIN WIN!
If only it was so simple. The massive Central Green site was already zoned for high density and it sat for four years and sold for $6 million.
The land they want to sell, which includes Memorial Arena, is protected by the Simpson Covenant that excludes commercial uses. Taxpayers First’s most recognizable candidate, Carol Gran, a former provincial government cabinet minister, was a councillor when the B.C. Supreme Court upheld the covenant.
She knows this.
In any election, council candidates make some strange promises. Usually they come from community-minded, good-hearted people who simply don’t have the experience to understand the difference. Reporters often give them a pat on the head and repeat the rhetoric because there’s no harm. But for some reason, Taxpayers First press conferences making these claims and promises were repeated by most of the city’s news outlets with nary a question.
This group appears to have plenty of cash behind them to make their push for a majority on council. At least two of their members — Gran and Graeme James, another former councillor — have the experience to know none of this is achievable. None of it.
Yet, they’ve clearly been planning this for quite some time with their videos and renderings and schedule of announcements. And there's still more to come. I can only imagine.
They know exactly what they are doing.
That’s what turns this from a laughable sideshow to something more dangerous. They are willing to promise the moon and stars to get elected.
— Marshall Jones is the editor of Infonews.ca