KELOWNA - Now that the election dust has mostly settled (a recount is still needed to determine who is going to be Mayor of Peachland) we can put away our memories of Election 2018.
Many of us will remember the 2014 Kelowna election not for the fact that Colin Basran defeated Sharron Shepherd to take over from retiring Mayor Walter Gray. Rather, it’s more memorable as the Canal Election.
That came from the TaxpayersFirst slate that suggested creating canals on a few downtown streets as a tourist attraction.
None of them got elected.
Nor did the two Kelowna mayorlty candidates who, while they didn’t propose building canals, had similarly “outlandish” suggestions.
Bobby Kennedy’s campaign was infused with marijuana smoke as he pitched money making ideas for the city. Some made a modicum of sense, like holding street markets funded by the city with revenue going back to the city. But it almost always came back to the CCT – Community Cannabis Tax, billed as a three to five per cent tax on top of the 27 per cent other governments plan to take from the sale of legal pot.
What that was going to pay for ranged, depending on the audience he was speaking to, from services to seniors to shipping containers stacked in a field for drug rehab to a “sea bus” across Okanagan lake.
Not to be outdone on the drug rehab side, Tom Dyas pitched a treatment farm, along with his own vision of redoing downtown Kelowna. Again, no canals but moving City Hall to make room for a convention centre (expensive and maybe not allowed under the Simpson covenant requiring that land to be used for civic purposes only), moving the downtown firehall (currently in a heritage buiding) and converting to a municipal police force that iNFOnews.ca research showed could push the cost of policing in Kelowna from about $32 million a year to maybe $50 million.
While Kennedy and Dyas fell far short of unseating Mayor Colin Basran, Stef Van Meeteren made a statement on the other end of the campaigning spectrum. That is, she was virtually invisible throughout the campaign and still, somehow, got almost 2,000 votes.
Sure, she finished last but one has to wonder why those 2,000 people felt she deserved their vote?
Could it be that Van Meeteren was one of only two women out of the 14 newcomers running for what turned out to be the one vacant seat on Kelowna council?
Lindsay Bell, the other woman, was no powerhouse among the contenders, focusing mostly on the need to get senior government funding for social issues. Still, she finished 13th with almost 6,000 votes – still half of what was needed to get elected.
The 2014-18 council had the best gender balance ever with four of eight councillors being women. That drops to three this time around. That’s an improvement over the 1999-2005 councils when Sharron Shepherd was the lone female voice.
The number of women running for council hit double digits for three campaigns starting in 2005 but dropped to only five this time, including three incumbents.
But with newcomer Loyal Wooldridge getting elected, Kelowna has its first openly gay councillor.
With the switch to four-year terms, current Mayor Colin Basran is in the running to become the longest serving mayor in Kelowna’s history.
Two are tied at 12 years (D.W. Sutherland 1917-29 and Walter Gray, 1996-2005, 2011-14), Dick Parkinson did 11 years (1958-69) and Jim Stuart lasted a decade from 1986-96. Many others only served for one two-year term. If Basran finishes this term (some rumours say he’ll opt for provincial or federal politics before this term is up – he says no) he’ll be in a solid fourth place at eight years and will tie for the lead if re-elected in 2022.
Then there are those dedicated candidates who just keep on running.
Three of this year’s contenders were in at least their fifth campaign for city council.
Mo Rajabally has run five times in the last 22 years.
The City of Kelowna website goes back to the 1996 election and has Rajabally first appearing in 1999. He skipped the campaigns of 2005 and 2011. In all of those efforts, his best vote tally was this year with 3,067 votes for 19th spot out of 21. That’s nine more votes than 2014. No matter how many candidates were running (it ranged from 16 in 1999 to a high of 40 in 2011) Rajabally never finished higher than 14th.
Graeme James (who was part of the canal team) and Charlie Hodge were both in their fifth consecutive campaigns and both share the rare honour of being incumbents who were voted out of office. Both tried and failed to get elected in 2005, both succeeded in 2008 (Hodge was 6th and James was 8th), both were tossed in 2011 – virtually the only time incumbents have been turfed in Kelowna. The difference is, Hodge came back in 2014 and was re-elected this year. James is still waiting to get back on council, finishing 10th this year.
Can we look forward to all three trying again in 2022? Or is time against them all?
From a Kelowna council that was mostly first and second termers, by 2022 most will be seasoned veterans and a few will be senior citizens. They might be peeking over Okanagan Lake to West Kelowna where half the incumbents were turfed.
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