Castanet News has distributed a questionnaire to each candidate running for local council in the South Okanagan.
All candidates have been given the same questions, and answers have been edited for clarity and brevity when needed. Responses will be published daily in the weeks ahead. An interactive database of Okanagan candidates, including previous questionnaire stories, is available here and is being updated daily.
Election day is Oct. 15.
Toni Boot, Summerland council candidate
Why would you make an effective municipal councillor?
I grew up in Summerland and raised my two sons here, who, like me, graduated from Summerland Secondary School.
I have served two terms on council, elected first in 2014 and again, as mayor, in 2018. In the last eight years, I've learned a lot about council roles, governance and the workings of local government. I do my research, listen to Summerland residents, ask questions, deliberate and vote in a way that reflects the voices of the community and positively impacts as many residents as possible.
My effectiveness lies in my demonstrated commitment to build a healthy and resilient community. Beyond life’s necessities, this means a safe place that is diverse and provides access to recreational opportunities, reliable services, quality education, health services, arts and cultural events, employment, and a thriving business sector.
Not all these matters are the responsibility of local governments: partnerships and collaboration are key. Through my work on government and non-profit boards I continue to build relationships to gain a deeper understanding of how to grow community vitality.
In your view, what is the number one issue facing Summerland today, and how would you deal with it, knowing Municipal Hall only has so much power?
The number one issue is accessible and affordable rental and market housing for people in our community - whether they are unsheltered, looking to rent, getting into the housing market for the first time or moving into a larger/smaller space to accommodate family needs.
There are literally hundreds of market housing units coming onstream over the next few years Summerland. However, building more market housing may help with supply but does not address affordability. It is much more complicated than simply building houses; it requires collaboration and partners with community organizations and senior levels of government.
In my presentation as part of a panel discussion on housing at the Union of BC Municipalities (UBCM) convention, I made three suggestions that I would like to explore further: 1) a provincial rent-to-own program similar to that introduced by the federal government in late August, 2) a review of the Cooperative Association Act to make it easier to establish housing cooperatives, and 3) establishing a Community Land Trust, using public land, specifically for attainable housing.
How would you make Summerland more affordable?
The easy answer is to cut taxes. But a council that does this is reducing levels of service and defaulting on their fiscal responsibilities. Instead, just as former residents contributed to our wellbeing (Thirsk Dam, water treatment plant, etc.) we pay it forward for future residents.
The District’s Asset Management Strategy guides responsible and long-term management of public assets which provide the services Summerland residents rely on. As set out in the Asset Management Policy, a portion of property taxes goes into a capital reserve. These funds are invested and allocated to capital projects, including infrastructure renewal, over the rolling Five-Year Financial Plan.
We all want lower taxes, but I will continue to vote for an annual allocation to capital reserves.
In addition to being unconventional in creating attainable housing, I would be in favour of continuing to subsidize recreational user fees, exploring free transit, and supporting a 3 pet cent tax on short-term accommodation (Municipal and Regional District Tax) with 1 per cent allocated to attainable housing.
What is one example of a time you agreed with Summerland council over the past term, and one where you disagreed?
I agreed with the council decision to direct staff to explore the possibility of an eco-village near the solar + battery storage project. A concept plan was created through engagement with adjacent landowners, recreational trail user groups, the Penticton Indian Band and the community-at-large. Preliminary assessments on environmentally sensitive habitat, geotechnical constraints, and cultural and heritage values are included in the concept plan.
I disagreed with council’s decision to not appoint the mayor to fill one of Summerland’s two Regional District Okanagan Similkameen (RDOS) board seats. Under the Community Charter, “the mayor is the head and chief executive officer of the municipality” and “must reflect the will of council and carry out other duties on behalf of council, such as attending ceremonies and meetings of other bodies." I accept that there are councillors who do not respect me personally. However, that should not override their respect for the office of mayor. Should I be re-elected as a councillor, I will continue to support an RDOS seat for the mayor (or the mayor’s designate).
If you had $1 million to spend on anything for Summerland, how would you spend it?
I would put the $1 million into the District’s “Community Contributions” account and earmark it for more affordable housing options so that more families could afford to stay in Summerland and more people could move here to fill gaps in professional services such as health care.
Investing in the Community Contributions account means that the money continues to accumulate interest until council is satisfied that a suitable affordable housing project is proposed. The money could be used for any aspect of the project: reducing or eliminating development cost charges (which council can already waive for a project such as this), creating green/park space, adding pathways to connect neighbourhoods, etc.
Deliberate, planned growth in affordable housing options attracts more potential staff for local businesses, more children to fill seats in local schools, more people to support Summerland businesses and events, and more people to take on leadership roles, volunteer, or otherwise engage in the community.
Picture Summerland 20 years from now. What are the key aspects that are making it thrive?
Summerland in 2042 is a healthy community that can adapt to whatever lies ahead.
Everyone has appropriate housing, clean water and healthy food, and there is equitable access to recreational amenities, reliable services, quality education, health care and employment. Residents and visitors support a thriving business sector which includes agriculture, arts and culture, and tourism.
At the local government level:
The shift in organizational culture initiated in 2020 is fully entrenched at the staff level.
Accessibility, sustainability and innovation lenses are applied to all District projects and initiatives.
Council members reflect Summerland’s diversity and govern as a cohesive and respectful team that observes the District Code of Conduct and other council policies.
Several long-range plans are in progress or already in place (such as the Downtown Neighbourhood Action Plan, Cultural Plan and Parks and Recreation Master Plan) to help achieve this vision. These plans have been shaped by residents—a key piece in ensuring that Summerland will be an even better place to live in 20 years.