Sparks flew during Tuesday's Kelowna mayoral debate

Gloves off in mayors race

The top two contenders in Kelowna's race for the mayor's chair went toe-to-toe Tuesday during a Chamber of Commerce sponsored debate.

Incumbent Colin Basran and top challenger, Tom Dyas, used the format to engage in some spirited back-and-forth on issues of crime and collaboration.

Basran drew the ire of the crowd at the Mary Irwin Theatre during one of those back-and-forth moments when he took a shot at Dyas during a discussion of leadership and collaboration with senior levels of government.

"Relationships take time to build, they don't happen overnight," said Basran.

"And, while I appreciate that Mr. Dyas lobbied one time five years ago to the federal minister of finance only to protect his own business interest as a result of potential tax changes."

The comment drew a loud chorus of boos from those in attendance.

It was precipitated from a statement Basran had initially made, stating there are a lot of challenges ahead requiring strong leadership, while suggesting he is the only one at the table who has the necessary collaborative relationships with provincial and federal governments.

"The idea that only one mayor has connections in provincial and federal government is absurd," responded Dyas.

"Those positions change continually at provincial levels and federal levels. I have had the great opportunity over the years working with the Chamber of Commerce to deal with individuals, MPs, MLAs, ministers and to be able to communicate with them. Kelowna is the largest city in the interior. It has a voice, but it ends up that voice has not be used properly.

"That is why we are experiencing some of the things we are experiencing in our community."

The two also sparred over crime figures.

Basran took exception to comments by Dyas, portraying Kelowna as the "crime capital of Canada," on more than one occasion.

"I'm frustrated we continue to use Kelowna as the crime capital of Canada when it is clearly not. Information that is readily available that anyone can find, when you take census data and remove West Kelowna, Peachland, Lake Country and WFN lands from City of Kelowna stats, we are actually 14th on the list in the province and 54th in the country in terms of where we fall across Canada," said Basran.

He produced StatsCan figures that showed that, while the Census Metropolitan Area tha encompasses the entire Central Okanagan had the highest crime rate in the country when compared against other CMAs, the city itself is 14th, behind cities such as Penticton, Langley City, and Prince George.

However, Kelowna's crime rate is significantly higher (13,489 per 100,000 population) than the 11,112 per 100,000 for the overall CMA, meaning Kelowna is actually an upward force on the regional crime rate.

"You have to ask yourself, is leadership about tarnishing the city's brand in order to make you look good, or is it about actually find solutions like dealing with repeat offenders and recognizing yes we have a problem and implementing and advocating for change as opposed to utilizing misinformation to make yourself look good," Basran said.

Dyas responded saying you can't pull Kelowna out to suit your needs, adding one-in-four residents have told him they have been victims of crime.

"Comparing a smaller Kelowna to other CMA's across Canada is like comparing apples to oranges. It takes Stats Canada...they are the ones who gave us this information, it was not me who produced this information," said Dyas.

"He's trying to mislead voters and discredit people's experiences."

Kelowna Boxing Club owner David Habib drew support from the crowd when he suggested money earmarked to build a new rec centre be better utilized on social needs.

"Spending that kind of money when we have other critical issues in our community is devastating," said Habib.

"I think we need to take that money and focus it into rehabilitation, drug addiction, affordable housing, homelessness, mental illness."

"There are so many things that are more critical to our community right at our pivotal time, and I do not believe the rec centre is going to make that big of a change to get kids off our street."

He also claimed to have taken more drugs off the streets since 2013 than anyone else in the city.

Basran meantime dispelled rumours he may not complete a four year term if elected after the Electoral Boundaries Commission recommended the addition of a third dedicated provincial riding for the city.

While he didn't commit to not seeking a provincial nomination in those words, he said his track record speaks for itself.

"I get asked this question every time I run for office. I have been now representing you on city council either as a councillor or as a mayor for 11 years. I think I have proven myself to the commitment of serving entire terms as your mayor, and that is something I would look to do if I am elected your mayor moving forward.

"I love being the mayor, I love the city, and having given 11 years to it, while it may sound like a lot, I still have a lot more to give."

Advance polls for the municipal election open up Wednesday morning at 8 a.m. at the Parkinson Rec Centre.

Other advance polls will be available Oct. 8, 12, 13 and 145.

General voting day is Oct. 15.

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