Hear directly from Mayor Tom Dyas, as he provides updates from elected council on issues that affect you. Each month the mayor will focus on a different priority area and overview the progress that is being made to address it as Council works to guide the growth, development and operation of the City.
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By Mayor Tom Dyas
Happy New Year, Kelowna! As we usher in 2024, I would like to reflect on my exciting first year as your mayor and the journey we have undertaken together. While the path toward progress is ongoing and the work is continual, I am filled with optimism and enthusiasm for the new year and future of our beautiful city.
We have taken some significant steps forward as a community. And thanks to the contributions, support, and hard work of my council colleagues, residents, staff, community partners, other levels of government, and the local business community, we can collectively take pride in our accomplishments which have laid the foundation for a bright year ahead.
As we wrap up the year, I want to share with you some 2023 projects that especially stand out to me that I believe will have some of the most significant impacts for our community.
The introduction of the one per cent community safety levy, which has been instrumental in our ability to fund 31 new RCMP and 11 bylaw officers and other safety related positions for 2023 and 2024; I also want to thank Kelowna RCMP for their incredible work over the past year. Their latest report (January 1 to August 31) noted a 43.9 per cent decline in business break and enter, 40.8 per cent decrease in auto theft, 38.7 per cent decrease in bike theft, 30.6 per cent reduction in theft from a motor vehicle, and 10.7 per cent decrease in residential break and enter.
An agreement, under the Housing Accelerator Fund (HAF), will provide $31.5 million in federal funding to eliminate barriers to building the housing we need faster. The memorandum of understanding with the Province of B.C. formalizes our commitment to work together to better support people who are unhoused. Work is underway to open 120 new units on both Crowley Ave and Highway 97. In addition, the City is in the process of identifying a possible future third site that could accommodate another potential 60 units.
Council is pleased the City will take a more active role working with local social-serving sector organizations and other partners to address current and emerging complex social issues in 2024. The Social Development team, approved by Council in the 2024 budget, will increase the focus on long-term upstream prevention of the flow into homelessness, and will support initiatives that address broader housing needs, advance social wellness advocacy, and expand partnership opportunities.
Establishing the 13-member Mayor’s Task Force on Crime Reduction was also very important to me. As chair, I’d like to thank the community stakeholders who have committed their time and expertise to help develop community-driven initiatives to reduce crime in Kelowna.
I’m also happy to see the many important infrastructure and community projects advanced in 2023, including the YLW terminal expansion; waterfront park in the Pandosy town centre as well as the Strathcona, DeHart, Truswell land acquisition, Ballou and Glenmore parks projects; indoor recreation facility strategy; North End Plan; and bike valet program.
With funding approval in place, 2023 also brought the commencement of the Building a Stronger Kelowna legacy project that will see the construction of two new activity centres for all-ages in Mission and Glenmore, enhanced sports fields in Rutland, the redevelopment of Parkinson Recreation Centre, and further development of community partnership opportunities with key partners such as Okanagan College and UBCO.
A major highlight of the year for me were the results of our advocacy work. The City has been a leading advocate, in collaboration with other B.C. Municipalities, responding to the Province’s illicit drug decriminalization pilot project. Local governments are requesting that playgrounds, spray and wading pools, and skate parks be added to the province’s list of areas where possession of illicit drugs is banned (including within six metres of all building entrances and bus stops and within all parks, beaches and sports fields). With the legislation related to exemptions are now on hold due to a B.C. Supreme Court ruling last week, we will continue our advocacy efforts.
The City also continues to advocate to Interior Health to deliver more and better access to substance use treatments, supports and complex care housing in conjunction with decriminalization, and appropriate levels of consequence for repeat property and violent offenders. Kelowna has been a leading voice for bail reforms to address repeat offending including through our Community Confidence in Justice Advocacy Paper.
Our grant and advocacy work also resulted in significant investment in 2023 from senior levels of government, including over $26 million, through the BC Growing Communities Fund, for infrastructure to support our fast-growing community; $28.5 million in funding to support the addition of 359 much needed childcare spaces in our community; and investments and recognition for ecological restoration and fuel management in the face of this summer’s unprecedented Grouse Complex wildfire.
In addition to funding for the Island Stage rejuvenation, Kelowna also received significant funding to improve, grow and start electrifying regional transit service through upgrades to the current transit facility, transit exchanges and prep for a new transit operations centre. The total project costs are $29.3 million, with senior levels of government contributing the majority of the funding to BC Transit through the Investing in Canada Infrastructure Program (ICIP) to advance the work.
Other 2023 highlights include helping to facilitate a permanent home for the Kelowna Famers’ and Crafters’ Market; completing Kelowna’s housing needs assessment; advancing 2200 new rental and for-purchase housing units in the community; and record-breaking building permit construction value, which was up approximately 46 per cent from $1.2 billion in 2022 to $1.76 billion in 2023. We also welcomed some exciting events including the Pan Continental Curling Championships, the BreakOut West music festival, and were named host of Curling Canada’s 2025 Brier.
While there is much to celebrate from last year, we also recognize have a lot of work to do. Holding us accountable for the strategic shifts, improvements and changes you want to see is an important part of local government and why we have introduced things like a lobbyist registry and code of conduct for Council; six-month Council priority progress reporting; and a financial health dashboard to show how the city is performing financially year-to-year and how prepared it is to meet future obligations.
Transparency and listening to residents on matters that are important to them, such as Kelowna Springs Golf and Country Club, the creation of the Community Task Force for Performing Arts, and the implementation of value-added audits are an essential part of the democratic process. Your engagement, feedback, and enthusiasm through channels, such as getinvolved.kelowna.ca and Council correspondence, help Council make the decisions that support a high quality of life. I encourage you to visit kelowna.ca/council to view the latest public progress report, including details on the 80 Council priority actions undertaken in the last year.
As we reflect on the past year, as our strength and resiliency has been tested, it is crucial to recognize that this progress would not have been possible without the active participation and support of our residents.
On the cusp of a new year, I am excited to see what we can achieve together in the next 12 months. I invite you to join me and all of council in making our city the best it can be. Together, we can make our city a place where everyone thrives and belongs.
By Mayor Tom Dyas
As the holiday season approaches, I am filled with immense gratitude for the community we call home. While I’ve always known how fortunate I am to live in Kelowna, this past year as mayor has further opened my eyes to the many aspects, in particular the people, community organizations and businesses, that make this community truly extraordinary.
As we come upon the close of 2023, what stands out to me most is the collective spirit, contributions and commitment from residents, staff and our many partners as we’ve worked together to address our community priorities and explore opportunities to achieve our shared vision of a welcoming, prosperous, and sustainable future for our community.
As you gather with your friends and family over the holiday season, I invite you to celebrate all the things that Kelowna has to offer. Whether you are looking for outdoor adventures, cultural experiences, entertainment or just the quiet beauty of our surroundings, I encourage you to get out in the community and enjoy the season.
While it has many special qualities, one of the great aspects of our city is the diverse collection of local businesses that add character and vitality to our streets. Last month I had the privilege of attending the Kelowna Chamber Business Excellence Awards to celebrate the outstanding efforts of the people and organizations that are leading the way in our local business community.
The Central Okanagan is home to nearly 10,000 small businesses with over 70 percent of these small businesses having less than five employees. These small businesses are the drivers of innovation, entrepreneurship, and economic growth in our city and I’m grateful for all that they bring to our community. This holiday season, let us make a conscious effort to shop local and support the many businesses that contribute to the overall vibrancy of our community.
There is no shortage of local activities and events happening throughout December and into the holidays, so I also encourage you to make some extra time for fun as we wind down the year. Take in a hockey game or a live performance at one of our theatres. Engage in free activities such as taking the family out for a hike or snowshoe in nature or a skate at Stuart Park. Visit kelowna.ca to explore other free activities like the family holiday skate at Rutland Arena on December 17 from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m., and the Valley First New York New Years event on December 31 in Stuart Park from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. You can also check out the event page at tourismkelowna.com and be a tourist in your own town, or simply take some time to visit one of our many parks or beaches to appreciate the yearlong beauty of our natural environment.
It’s important to recognize that for some the holidays can be a challenging time. Let's also take a moment to extend a helping hand to those in need of our support. Whether it's volunteering at a local charity, donating a gift for a child, or checking in on a neighbour, every act of kindness, no matter how small, contributes to the well-being of our community.
Whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, or any other tradition, I hope that above all you experience in some way the warmth that defines the holidays, and the values that unite us as a community, such as kindness, generosity, and gratitude.
As we get ready to usher in a New Year, I want to thank you all for making Kelowna a great place to live. It is an honour and a privilege to serve as your mayor, and to work with you to make our city better every day. I am proud of what we have accomplished together over the past year, and I am optimistic about what we can achieve in the future.
Happy holidays, Kelowna.
By Mayor Tom Dyas
I want to take a moment to reflect on the summer we experienced and the incredible teamwork and dedication we saw throughout our region during the wildfires.
The collaboration between municipal fire departments, BC Wildfire Service, local governments and thousands of volunteers was inspiring and I am very thankful for everyone’s service to our region.
It is going to take a similar spirit of prolonged teamwork and collaboration to combat the root cause of the wildfires and floods our region has experienced over the past several years.
Local and regional governments influence approximately 50 per cent of the nation’s overall greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, so we are intent on trying to influence our community’s shift toward a low-carbon lifestyle and respond effectively to climate impacts.
The City of Kelowna’s actions have always focused on doing what we can to mitigate factors contributing to climate change along with making adaptations to limit the effects of climate change.
As the City’s current five-year Community Climate Action Plan reaches the end of its life, staff are in the process of developing the next phase of a Climate Resilient Kelowna Strategy that will map out plans to reduce our carbon footprint and continue the process of rebuilding our city in a more sustainable way. That strategy is expected to be completed early in 2024.
We know that we must continue to provide options to help Kelowna residents reduce GHG emissions.
Along with promoting healthy lifestyles, the City has invested heavily in Active Transportation Corridors and encouraged other modes of travelling around our city in ways that reduce GHG emissions – walking, cycling, scooters, electric bikes, transit and supporting the use of ride sharing opportunities.
At the annual Union of B.C. Municipalities (UBCM) convention in Vancouver, I met with Transportation and Infrastructure Minister Rob Fleming to discuss progress on a new transit operation centre, which we need to expand and improve local transit service. The City of Kelowna will benefit from $9 million in senior government funding that will see upgrades at our current transit facility for service expansion and initial electric battery procurement for buses. In addition, funding will help advance the design of the new transit operations centre that will allow expanded transit service and the electrification of the entire fleet over time.
Decarbonizing new and existing buildings has also been a major component in meeting the City’s GHG emissions reduction targets. The 50-year-old Parkinson Recreation Centre, for example, is one of the largest emitters of GHG among all City of Kelowna properties, and we expect the new facility to be a net-zero carbon building. We are also developing an energy concierge pilot program to support homeowners through what can be a complicated home energy retrofit journey.
In 2018, YLW became carbon accredited through Airports Council International (ACI) and its Carbon Accreditation program. As part of the ongoing program, in June 2022, YLW received Level 2 Carbon Accreditation from ACI, gaining recognition of our efforts to measure and reduce our GHG emissions. We are currently working on a plan to further reduce energy consumption and to meet our commitment to achieve carbon neutrality by 2030.
The City has a Strategic Energy Management Plan that is targeting a GHG emissions reduction of 40 per cent below 2007 levels by 2030 for all corporate facilities and will implement equipment upgrades accordingly.
Current actions to reduce GHG emissions include:
- Focusing growth in the five urban centres and along major transit corridors with a goal of putting more people and more jobs within easy walking distance of reliable, direct transit service.
- Developing an energy concierge pilot program to support homeowners with energy retrofits.
- Top-up rebates for heat pump space heating, heat pump water heaters, electrical service upgrades, and EV (Electric Vehicle) chargers in multi-unit residential buildings.
- Amendments to the zoning bylaw to include EV ready requirements for new residential developments.
- A new Climate Action and Environmental Stewardship Department to apply a climate lens to policy development and decisions.
- 22 EV chargers on City properties with plans to install more.
- Completed a deconstruction pilot project on city-owned homes to assess waste reduction options and reduce lifecycle GHG emissions.
- Continued the Neighbourwoods Program to encourage citizens to help grow and preserve Kelowna’s urban forestEnvironmental protection and climate change adaptation are also essential for the City of Kelowna as we take measures to protect our beautiful landscape.
Environmental protection and climate change adaptation are also essential for the City of Kelowna as we take measures to protect our beautiful landscape.
The City of Kelowna was recently awarded the Climate & Energy Action Award at UBCM for our FireSmart Community Chipping Program, which has collected well over 100 metric tonnes of vegetation to reduce wildfire risk.
Other environmental protection and climate adaptation initiatives that have been in place include:
- Continued work on Mill Creek Flood Protection Project (year four of an eight-year project) to improve flood passage and public safety on Mill Creek.
- Initiated development of a Water Security Plan.
- Amended the Development Application Procedures Bylaw to require pre-development tree inventory to identify trees that may require root zone protection and help ensure trees proposed for the development are retained and protected.
- Finalizing a Sustainable Urban Forestry Strategy to expand Kelowna’s urban tree canopy (this year more than 1000 trees were planted).
- Continued implementation of the Community Wildfire Resilience Plan.
Along with Council’s other priorities of acting on crime and safety, affordable housing, homelessness, transportation, and agriculture, we have a lot of important work to do. An Oct. 16 report to Council at the six-month point since priorities were developed provided encouraging evidence that we are making progress on all priorities.
Ultimately, for Kelowna to become resilient to climate change, it will require collaboration with all levels of government, businesses and organizations, and the broader community. At the time of writing this article, conversations are happening between the federal and provincial government regarding the federal carbon tax. It will be interesting to see how the policy evolves in the coming weeks, months and years. Nonetheless, as a local government, we are uniquely positioned to influence this shift and how our community will grow, how we commute, interact and protect natural assets to maintain the quality of life we cherish in Kelowna.
We will all breathe easier if we work together to protect our environment and lessen the impacts on our warming climate. This is something the City has done in the past and I can assure you that Council will continue to use a climate lens when reviewing City policies, infrastructure, and programs.
By Mayor Tom Dyas
Kelowna continues to attract new residents from across the country and around the world. Encouraging the development of more housing to accommodate everyone who wants to call Kelowna home is a challenge Council has embraced and has propelled Kelowna into a leadership role among municipalities in Canada.
Meanwhile, the number of people experiencing homelessness in our city has more than doubled in the past year.
City Council is focused on finding solutions to both these challenges and we work every day to encourage actions that move us forward and make Kelowna a model for other communities to emulate.
Statistics Canada data found the Kelowna Census Metropolitan Area’s population grew by 14 per cent from 2016 to 2021 – the fastest rate of growth in Canada – and indications are that pace will continue. Our city’s population is projected to increase by 40,000 in the next 17 or 18 years.
Our well-diversified local economy, an international airport, large university and college campuses, our beautiful natural environment, Okanagan Lake, the spectacular parks, beaches and recreation facilities we’ve developed, ski resorts, golf courses and more than 200 wineries in the region all combine to explain why so many people want to live here.
With Kelowna’s pace of population growth, the City’s challenge is to accommodate new residents with diverse housing options, while maintaining attainable housing for families who already live here, for our senior citizens, and those with low- to moderate incomes.
According to data published by the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, Kelowna recorded 1,853 housing starts as of July, almost 85 per cent of which were townhouses or condominiums.
That housing construction pace puts Kelowna ahead of the entire province of New Brunswick (1,685) and is behind only Canada’s largest cities.
The City has topped the $1 billion mark for the third consecutive year in terms of the value of construction projects underway in 2023.
Market housing is strong. But when we talk about housing at the municipal level, we most often focus on what the City can do to encourage more affordable housing, more purpose-built rentals, more supportive housing, managing short-term rentals, advocating to the Province for more complex care housing, and more shelter space and other forms of housing outside the regular real estate market.
Since Council was sworn in 11 months ago, we have prioritized the development of a variety of housing types, including affordable housing and finding solutions for the critical need to better support our homeless population. We are doing this in a number of ways:
- Allocating $1.5 million of surplus to City’s Housing Opportunities Reserve Fund to purchase lands to meet the most urgent housing needs of our community
- Providing City-owned land to build affordable housing, as we did with the 75 homes at Pleasantvale 2, with housing for seniors, low-income families and people with disabilities, along with the 68 new homes at Hadgraf-Wilson Place on City-owned land on Bertram Avenue.
- These housing developments support another Council objective to increase number of rental units with below-market rents.
- We continue to advocate for additional Complex Care Centre, including a model similar to the Red Fish Healing Centre.
- Staff continue to work with partners to identify a site that is suitably located and zoned for Kelowna’s first purpose-built shelter.
- I have met numerous times with Housing Minister Ravi Kahlon, most recently at the Union of BC Municipalities convention, to advocate for increased BC Housing investments and supports for shelter, supportive and affordable housing spaces in our community.
- Work progresses on solutions to provide transitional housing, with details of this year’s approach to be shared with residents shortly.
- Applying for funding through the federal Housing Accelerator Fund to accelerate housing in Kelowna through adjusting regulations, investing in land and infrastructure, and updating systems.
Last Thursday, B.C. Housing Minister Ravi Kahlon, joined me in Kelowna to announce a partnership that will see the addition of 120 units of transitional emergency shelter over multiple sites in the coming months. This marks a significant step forward in our collective commitment to tackling homelessness. The City will provide land and the Province will provide capital and operating investments and supports for this and other solutions into the future.
Kelowna will be the first location in the Interior to use a tiny-home solution, which features small single-room units that are quick and easy to install. The first 60 units will be a Pallet village, which is just one example of the City’s ongoing efforts to explore all options for people experiencing homelessness. I traveled to Everett, Wash., with staff earlier this year to visit the Pallet warehouse and village. We saw first-hand how these transitional, modular, single- and double-occupancy housing units are constructed and operated for people who would otherwise have no roof over their heads. Each shelter can be assembled in under an hour.
I can assure you we are all working hard to get these units ready to welcome people as soon as possible. Continuing on the path of partnership, BC Housing and the City will be providing more detailed information in the coming weeks as plans are finalized.
I also thank the Province for providing Homeless Encampment Action Response Teams (HEART) support for our community. HEART is a new multi-disciplinary regional program designed to rapidly respond to encampments and better support people sheltering outdoors to move inside.
Getting back to affordable housing side of things, our latest Housing Needs Assessment found that affordability challenges, smaller household sizes and shifting preferences have led to increased demand for smaller units in multiple-dwelling buildings. There is a need for a significant increase in the delivery of subsidized rental housing, which will require unprecedented collaboration and partnership. Staff is currently working on a Housing Strategy to ensure Kelowna has the breadth of housing required to meet the varied needs of our citizens.
That is a big reason why we are moving into the next phase of our infill housing for urban centres. Efficiently using City infrastructure by adding new housing to central neighbourhoods is vital to the long-term health of our community.
The City is working to ensure that infill housing is high-quality and designed to complement surrounding neighbourhoods. This form of housing is more financially attainable, and it is far more financially and environmentally sustainable compared to suburban development.
The City of Kelowna has demonstrated we can approve housing quickly enough to meet demand, but it is the pace of housing construction that needs to increase.
Based on permitting trends and our engagement with the development community, we know the sector is experiencing challenges in terms of sourcing labour, along with supply chain issues, rising costs and interest rates.
Finally, I want to say that the City of Kelowna is having a very close look at short-term rentals. After a preliminary report to Council this summer, Council has directed staff to return to Council with an approach that is more restrictive moving forward. Short-term rentals have had a negative impact on our long-term house stock and in part has contributed to the raising costs of both home ownership and rentals.
Housing and shelter needs are not unique to Kelowna. We certainly feel the pressure more because of our rapid population growth, but I know from speaking to mayors all across our province that this housing crunch is a provincial and national crisis.
I want to assure you that the City of Kelowna is exploring every opportunity to alleviate the housing pressures our community is experiencing, and I hope this information contributes to the conversation about how we can move forward together.
We understand that more people are going to move to Kelowna for the same reasons many of us live here – for the quality of life we enjoy. Council is committed to balancing growth and the related future infrastructure needs to ensure we are a healthy community with quality-of-life investments in parks, recreation, transportation and opportunities to enhance our housing stock.
By Mayor Tom Dyas
On Aug. 15, twenty years — almost to the day — after the start of the 2003 Okanagan Mountain Park fire, flames from the McDougall Creek wildfire ignited our city’s skyline and quickly reminded us of the power of both wildfire and our regional emergency program.
More than 500 firefighters and 100 RCMP officers from more than 50 cities and towns joined forces with the Kelowna Fire Department, West Kelowna Fire Rescue, Lake Country Fire Department, North Westside Fire Rescue, Wilson's Landing Fire Department, BC Wildfire Service, Kelowna RCMP and Bylaw Services to execute an unprecedented, coordinated response.
While there will always be lessons to be learned in any emergency response, I am truly humbled by what was, and still is being, accomplished by the incredible work of our first responders and emergency operations centre. While a strong emergency response program is key, in the wake of a crisis that threatened lives and destroyed people’s homes, we all want to know what we can do to minimize the risk of wildfire in our community in the future.
First and foremost, we must recognize that the intensity and sheer number of wildfires we’ve seen across Canada and beyond are what many are now calling a climate change wake-up call, and one of the many reasons why climate/environment is one of six Council priorities. From the way we travel, to the electricity we use, and the food we eat, we all have a role to play in helping to limit climate change. Because, as temperatures rise, so too will the size, frequency and severity of wildfires.
Wildfire risk reduction is also top of mind in the community. Fuel mitigation treatments reduce the amount of available fire fuels in our natural areas, which plays a significant role in our ability to manage wildfire as safely and as quickly as possible. Over the past five years, the City has actioned over 100 hectares of fuel mitigation treatments on city-owned land, including reducing the amount of woody debris on the forest floor, thinning trees where necessary, and removing the lower limbs of trees to help keep fire from climbing into the canopy.
The success of fuel mitigation, including work done in Wilden during this fire and earlier in the season on Knox Mountain, speaks to the importance of proactive treatment and the need to look at all the different ways it can be accomplished—including securing ongoing, long-term funding and the way we explore new solutions, such as prescribed burns or the use of animals for grazing in key areas.
Residents can also make a critical difference by visiting kelowna.ca/firesmart to learn how to FireSmart their homes and take advantage of the City’s free community chipping program. Frontline fire fighters 2 said the homes and areas that were FireSmart made an integral difference in their ability to fight the recent fire safely and save properties.
New subdivisions in Kelowna are subject to review against Wildfire Hazard Development Permit guidelines which are reviewed by professional foresters. Developers are required to perform fuel modification and new single family lots created in fire hazard areas have maintenance obligations registered on their land title related to building construction and property maintenance in accordance with Fire Smart guidelines.
The Provincial Community Resiliency Investment (CRI) Program and 2022–2026 Community Wildfire Resiliency Plan, which contains over 40 recommendations from standardizing fuel management to how we build our communities, have been integral to completing wildfire prevention activities that have and will continue to reduce risk for our community especially as we face extreme fire and weather conditions.
The CRI program is a provincial funding program administered through the Union of BC Municipalities (UBCM) to provide funds for communities to plan and implement actions to reduce wildfire risk. Through the program over the last five years, we have been awarded $730,000, which has supported a variety of important FireSmart and mitigation initiatives throughout the community.
This year we were also successful in receiving a federal grant of $132,000 for ecological restoration and fuel management. As we return to normal, post wildfire, the City will be assessing impact to City property, as well as whether any intervention required to support a healthy regeneration of the area. In addition, the regional emergency program will be looking at lessons learned to apply to future events in our region. I am pleased to see conversations occurring at both the federal and provincial levels regarding resiliency and response and welcome Premier Eby’s emergency response task force announced just last week.
We will also reflect on the depth of our city’s spirit and unity through this event. It got us through a crisis and will undoubtedly be the key to achieving our collective community goals and vision for an inclusive, welcoming, prosperous and sustainable future.
By Mayor Tom Dyas
Following through on my pledge to provide transparent, clear communication to Kelowna’s residents, this is my first article in a monthly column dedicated to providing you with background and insights into Council decisions and City business.
One Council priority that receives a lot of attention and demands a lot of staff and Council effort is community safety. While I see firsthand the efforts being made throughout the community to address one of our city’s most pressing issues, the most recent Crime Severity Index illustrates there is still much work to be done.
I cannot imagine where we would be without the incredible dedication and support we receive from community partners and organizations, businesses and citizens who work every day to keep our community safe.
I want you to know that I see and hear the frustration and anger when it comes to safety. I read the letters you send to Council, I see your comments on social media, and I hear you when you tell me in person that you are concerned. I want you to know that as your mayor and neighbour, I wholeheartedly share these concerns. That is why I recently appointed 13 community members to a Mayor’s Task Force on Crime Reduction, which I personally chair. The inaugural meeting was held mid-July and I can tell you that each of the task force members has a sincere interest in making a difference in our City and they are laser-focused on immediate actions to improve our sense of safety and quality of life in Kelowna.
In addition to the new task force, Council has directed a number of initiatives to make an impact on the issues under local control. We are working closely with the RCMP and other partners on meaningful short-term and long-term actions that reduce crime. In the City’s 2023 Financial Plan, spending on Community Safety represents 43 per cent of our overall $176.6 million total taxation demand – the largest investment we make among all departments. For 2023, Council has approved an ongoing one-per-cent community levy that will hire 13 new community safety staff, including six RCMP officers and four Bylaw Services staff.
Addressing this complex issue—including the root causes of crime—will take time. I know people are tired of waiting, but we are finally seeing some results. Kelowna’s year-to-date statistics from the RCMP show a promising drop in non-violent, property crime:
Break and Enter (down 39%)
Theft from Motor Vehicle (down 34%)
Theft Other (down 18%)
While progress is being made, I know that a lot of work remains to be done to address local crime and safety concerns. That is why it is important to implement new creative ideas to mitigate crime. For example, bike theft is a significant contributor to Kelowna’s high crime rate. That’s why we implemented the City’s new Bike Valet pilot program, and the recent introduction of the Community Safety and Business Safety toolkits, providing meaningful, effective, and practical solutions to help address community safety and reduce crime in our city.
The challenges we face are not unique to Kelowna and, sadly, we are seeing an increase in homelessness, open drug use, mental health issues and social disorder throughout our community.
Since being elected last November, I have met with Mayors across British Columbia and Canada, and I can tell you every community is facing the same challenges. There are many contributing factors, and we all want to find solutions.
As the level of government most accessible to residents, Council understands and appreciates hearing from residents about local concerns so that we can advocate for solutions from other levels of government with the jurisdiction, resources and responsibility for these issues. You can help our advocacy efforts by directly sharing your experiences with your federal Member of Parliament, provincial Member of the Legislative Assembly and Interior Health.
Our local MPs are Tracy Gray email@example.com and Dan Albas firstname.lastname@example.org. Our local MLAs are Renee Merrifield email@example.com, Ben Stewart firstname.lastname@example.org, and Norm Letnick email@example.com.
You may also want to include Minister of Housing Ravi Kahlon at HOUS.Minister@gov.bc.ca, the Minister of Public Safety, Solicitor General and Deputy Premier Mike Farnworth at PSSG.Minister@gov.bc.ca, and Minister of Mental Health and Addictions Jennifer Whiteside at MMHA.Minister@gov.bc.ca. You can also include Interior Health at susan.brownCEO@interiorhealth.com to help us advocate for the necessary complex care required to meet the needs of our community.
I want you to know that while we are working to make improvements and seeing some results, I know it is not enough-that’s why I promise to work tirelessly to address crime and community safety here in Kelowna.
In the meantime, please be assured that Council will work hard over the next four years on this priority, and we are open to your suggestions and opinions on local solutions to address our community’s priorities. We will make Kelowna a safer city by listening to our residents and working together.
You can reach us at firstname.lastname@example.org.