Summerland council meets with mayor of occupied Ukrainian town

Reaching out in support

Several members of Summerland district council recently participated in a Zoom meeting with Mayor Ivan Malieiev and First Deputy Marina Loginova from Kirillovka, a town in southeastern Ukraine currently under Russian occupation.

The meeting was arranged by Sergei Shubin, head of communications for the Kirillovka municipality before he and his family fled the war and took refuge here in Summerland. Elena Chernikova, an interpreter from Summerland, translated during the meeting.

When Russian troops entered Kirillovka on March 25, 2022, the municipality began a mass evacuation of the local population. Within a month, more than 60 percent of its 6,600 residents were relocated to safer areas of Ukraine or beyond.

Malieiev chose to remain in Kirillovka. He told us he was later detained by the Russian military and special services and put in solitary confinement for two months. They demanded he cooperate but he refused.

The mayor was then deported to Ukrainian-controlled territory and ended up in the city of Zaporozhye, located 170 km from Kirillovka. Loginova also made her way to Zaporozhye, using false identification to get through Russian checkpoints.

Most of the 23 members of Kirillovka city council managed to flee, although several stayed in Kirillovka and are cooperating with the Russians.

Council meetings are being held in Zaporozhye and from there the municipality helps displaced Kirillovka residents, including providing humanitarian assistance. Teachers from Kirillovka continue to hold classes online.

The municipality is also accessing its limited funds to help the Ukrainian armed forces in support of its military operations. Kirillovka residents also assist where they can – they knit socks and have sewn more than 3,000 pillows for soldiers at the front.

According to Malieiev, little can be done for those residents remaining in Kirillovka, most of whom are elderly. Russian security services monitor communications with Ukraine so even contacting them would put them in danger.

Kirillovka council, however, is preparing for when the community is “de-occupied” to ensure a rapid post-war recovery.

In (President Volodymyr) Zelenskyy-like fashion, Malieiev remained calm and confident throughout our hour-long meeting. He talked about “when” the Russian occupation would end and never expressed doubt he would return to help bring Kirillovka back to its former glory.

Before the war, Kirillovka was a popular beach resort that welcomed more than a million visitors a year. The town was renowned for its sandy beaches and warm waters of the Azov Sea and two estuaries. There were spas and mud baths, amusement parks, recreation centres, a dolphinarium, festivals and sporting events. Half the size of Summerland, the community supported five cultural centres, four libraries and three museums.

Preparing for the “de-occupation” of Kirillovka includes establishing contacts abroad. The mayor spoke of Canada’s ongoing solidarity and unwavering support for Ukraine. In reaching out to us, he expressed interest in establishing relations with Summerland to set the stage for future post-war partnerships and cultural exchanges.

Our conversation with Malieiev was engaging and at times emotional. When asked how we can help, he said he just wants us to stand with Ukraine, for as long as it takes.

We agreed to keep in touch.

Doug Holmes is the mayor of Summerland.

Embracing the spirit of the season

Mayor's holiday greeting

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 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 more than 70% 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 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, snowshoe in nature or skate at Stuart Park.

Visit kelowna.ca to explore other free activities like the family holiday skate at the Rutland Arena Dec. 17 from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m., and the Valley First New York New Year’s event on Dec. 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 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.

Tom Dyas is the mayor of Kelowna.

Central Okanagan Food Bank seeks support this holiday season

Help feed the hungry

As we head into the holiday season, many end-of-year festivities will take place. .

It’s no surprise that after a year of tremendous economic uncertainty, a record number of our community members are turning to food banks to meet their needs. In fact, in British Columbia alone, food bank use has increased 51.7% since 2019.

While this is a joyful time of the year, many families are trying to stretch their dollar further. With the demand reaching an all-time high, the need for food banks to be well-stocked has never been more urgent. This is especially true during the holiday season, as more and more families are faced with tough choices, like putting food on the table or celebrating festivities with their loved ones.

That’s why your contribution to Central Okanagan Food Bank will make a significant difference.

To help address the need, members of the community can always stop by the food bank to make a donation. We’re also appreciative of Peter’s Your Independent Grocer in Kelowna, which is once again running its Holiday Food Drive to help us meet seasonal demand.

The food drive will run Nov. 30 to Dec. 24 at Peter’s Your Independent Grocer in the Capri Centre in Kelowna.

You can help by making food or cash donation in the store. Cash donations will help to keep everything running and keep shelves stocked at the for bak when supplies dwindle.

Some of the food items the food bank is always happy to receive include grains: such as cereals, rice, pasta, oats and granola bars, proteins, such as canned fish, beans, and peanut butter and also canned fruits and vegetables. Pantry staples is demanding include chunky soup, pasta and canned brown beans. Baby items, such as ready-to-feed formula, baby wipes, baby food, diapers re also regularly needed.

Next time you are grocery shopping, consider sharing the gift of food. Grab a few extra items and drop them in the donation bins near the store's entrance. You can also give money at the checkout of your local Independent Grocer.

Your small act of kindness can make a big difference for those in need.

Trina Speiser is with the Central Okanagan Food Bank.

Summerland's power advantage helping to stabilize grid and control costs

Summerland's energy centre

Sunny days for Summerland electrical utility

Summerland is one of five municipalities in B.C. to own and operate an electrical utility—the others being Penticton, Grand Forks, Nelson and New Westminster.

We each buy power wholesale and resell it to local residents and businesses. With the recent opening of the Okanagan’s first utility-scale solar and battery storage facility, Summerland joins Nelson as the only municipalities to produce some of our own electricity to supplement what we purchase wholesale.

The new Summerland Energy Centre, located on the toe of Cartwright Mountain, is a 412kW solar array and 1MW of battery storage, providing a 3.56 MWh power supply. The facility feeds electricity directly to the grid as well as releases stored power when and where it is needed, for example during an outage.

Every kilowatt we generate is a kilowatt we don’t have to buy. Savings are especially achieved when we put electricity onto the grid at peak times, which is the price point where the wholesale cost is calculated. We are seeing an immediate return on our investment.

The project, built with a $6 million federal grant, was the result of eight years of planning.

Before 2015, the Summerland electrical utility suffered from decades of underinvestment. Through our work in asset management, we knew the “infrastructure deficit” in the electrical system was higher than other municipal infrastructure, like water, sewer and roads. That meant it was older and in greater need of upgrades.

The district council of the day reviewed its options, including the possibility of selling off the utility. That we’d consider disposing of the asset upset many people in the community, and council agreed it was in Summerland’s interest to keep it, but we would need to invest in it.

Part of that renewed commitment included the idea of generating some of our own power. Solar made sense because it was a proven technology and relatively simple to implement. Summerland is also one of the sunniest places in the province. We receive about 305 days of sunlight a year, compared to 289 in Vancouver and 251 in Prince Rupert.

The Summerland Energy Centre aligns with federal and provincial plans to meet future energy needs and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The government makes no secret it supported the project to showcase it to other Canadian communities, and already has received a Climate and Energy Action Award from the Community Energy Association.

Certainly, if we’re serious about electrifying the economy— which we’ll need to do if we want to address climate change—we’ll have to produce far more clean energy than we do today, and part of the solution will be small-scale power generation feeding directly into local distribution grids.

But down here at ground level, for the day-to-day operation of the Summerland electrical system, the greatest benefit of the energy centre is to help stabilize the grid and control costs.

That is the primary reason, all those years ago, council made the decision to invest in our utility.

Doug Holmes is mayor of Summerland

Driving at work is dangerous but we can make it safer

Making our roads safer

Here’s something that may surprise you: Driving may be the most dangerous thing most of us do in our job, even if we do it only once in a while.

Don’t think you drive at work? You may need to think again. Sure, you may not be a courier, delivery person or have “driver” in your job title or job description, but you may get behind the wheel to run office errands, call on clients or travel to off-site meetings. All of those trips are work-related driving, whether you do them occasionally, part time or all the time.

Here’s why it matters. Work-related crashes are the leading cause of traumatic workplace death in B.C.

From 2017 to 2021, WorkSafeBC statistics show an average of 18 people were killed in work-related vehicle crashes annually, and another 1,537 were injured seriously enough to miss work. That’s the equivalent of almost one driver being injured or killed every work day.

As part of National Day of Remembrance for Road Crash Victims in Canada on Nov. 15, take a moment to acknowledge the losses felt by families, friends, co-workers, and communities. And recommit to eliminating all work-related injuries and deaths on B.C. roads.

A recent Road Safety at Work survey found only 11% of employers and 26% of employees believed driving for work is dangerous. Changing that attitude can help prevent injuries and save lives.

Most crashes are preventable if employers provide training, education and supervision, and if workers follow safe driving procedures.

Crashes aren’t inevitable. They aren’t always the fault of the other driver. And they’re certainly not a cost of doing business.

Preventing crashes is, in fact, smart business. Drivers who stay safe and healthy are available for work and that eases staff shortages. An organizational culture that focuses on road safety can be an advantage in recruiting and retaining drivers, who see that they are valued. Claims costs, repair bills, and insurance premiums can all be reduced. The bottom line here is road safety for workers is about making sure people return home after every shift healthy and safe.

It’s an issue that affects hundreds of thousands of people in B.C. ICBC statistics show nearly 625,000 passenger and commercial vehicles in the province were insured for business use in 2022. The number of vehicles used for work may be much higher, though, because many people who drive their own vehicle on the job occasionally insure it for pleasure use. The designation allows them to use the vehicle for up to six days per month for business or delivery.

Our mission at Road Safety at Work is to help build a culture of work-related road safety by educating, empowering and engaging B.C. road users. It starts with knowledge and mindset.

First, we need to understand vehicles used for work are workplaces under WorkSafeBC regulations. It doesn’t matter whether the employer or an employee owns the vehicles. They need to meet health and safety standards for workplaces and road safety needs to be part of the organization’s health and safety program.

Second, we need to pay attention to all the work-related driving done during a shift. Remember the rule: If an employee gets behind the wheel for any work-related reason, they’re driving for work.

Many, many jobs involve some time on the road, including many we don’t usually associate with driving. That’s reflected in the occupations with most work-related crashes over the last five years. On the list you’ll find commercial truck drivers, couriers, and transit operators, but you’ll also see the following:

• Nurse aides, orderlies, and other patient service associates

• Social and community service workers

• Construction trades helpers and labourers

Third, we need to accept that driving on the job is dangerous. Driving too fast for the conditions, impairment and fatigue are the leading causes of crashes in B.C. They don’t stop when we’re behind the wheel for work.

Fourth, we need to recognize that nearly all crashes can be prevented with the right measures in place. Employers have both a legal and moral responsibility to make safety a priority. Employees have safety responsibilities too, including the need to follow workplace policies and procedures and the right to refuse unsafe work.

If we change the way we think, we can change the way we behave. By seeing the dangers of work-related driving, we can eliminate work-related deaths and injuries on B.C. roads.

Trace Acres is program director for Road Safety at Work, a WorkSafeBC-funded initiative managed by the Justice Institute of BC. For more information, visit RoadSafetyAtWork.ca.

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