Why are we seeing a rise in violence in our community?

An increase in violence

What is going on with all of the violence that we are seeing of late?

Has it always been there and we are more aware of it because of social media and recording cell phones? Or Is it increasing?

We see violence on the news and in social media around the world. It is somewhat distant but still unsettling to witness the increasing levels of aggression and unrest.

In France, riots have become a regular occurrence, while the Ukraine-Russia war continues to devastate lives and displace millions. Even in New Zealand, a country typically known for its peaceful nature, protests and counter-protests have led to hostility and division.

But lately it seems like there is more violence even at home.

As a proud member of the Kelowna community, I cannot help but express my growing concern over the escalating violence we are witnessing in our city.

The recent attack on Gagandeep Singh, and the assault on a 15-year-old girl and her friend by a group of other teens this past weekend serve as stark reminders we cannot afford to be complacent in addressing the issue. It is crucial we come together as a community to understand and combat the root causes of this disturbing trend.

Violence is not the answer. Rather, it only exacerbates existing issues and creates more pain and suffering.

If this is true, why is there more violence?

It is clear a stronger focus on public safety is needed now more than ever. This includes investing in community programs, increasing law enforcement presence and working to address the underlying issues that contribute to violence. As a community, we must support these efforts and strive to create an environment where all our residents feel safe and protected.

So where do provincial politicians come in?

In Nanaimo last week, business owners and residents peacefully protested the lack of provincial supports and intervention. I think they are correct.

Our elected officials have a significant role to play in this process. It is their responsibility to listen to the concerns of their constituents and engage in meaningful conversations about the issues affecting our communities. They also give this feedback to the public safety minister, who can instruct the RCMP to increase its activities to protect public safety.

Despite a year of prodding by my B.C. Liberal colleagues, in addition to the general public, it is only in the last few months any action has been taken.

But there is more that can be done.

Government must be proactive in addressing the factors that contribute to violence. It is only through its leadership and commitment that we can hope to see real change.

As a community, it is time for us to wake up and recognize the urgency of this situation. We must come together to address the rising violence in Kelowna and beyond.

Let’s engage in open and honest dialogue, focusing on the root causes of these issues and work collectively to create a safer, more peaceful world for everyone.

My question to you this week is this:

Do you feel safe in Kelowna?

I love hearing from you. Please email me at [email protected] or call the office at 250-712-3620.

Renee Merrifield is the B.C. Liberal MLA for Kelowna-Mission.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.

Central Okangan needs better transportation planning

Efficient transportation

Kelowna is beautiful. We are known as a city with stunning landscapes, vineyards, golf courses, beaches and outdoor recreational opportunities.

But we are also gaining notoriety for an issue that is less favourable—severe traffic congestion.

Most who live in Kelowna, or those who visit, will talk about the traffic from Bridge Hill to the airport. As Kelowna's population continues to grow, traffic congestion has become an increasingly pressing issue. Long waits at intersections, bumper-to-bumper traffic during rush hours and frustration among drivers are now daily realities for many residents.

This congestion not only affects the quality of life for our community but also has a negative impact on the environment, as idling vehicles release harmful emissions into the air. One of the key factors exacerbating traffic congestion in Kelowna is the limited availability of public transit options.

For many residents, particularly those in outlying areas, public transit is either nonexistent or insufficient to meet their needs. As a result, more people are forced to rely on their vehicles for transportation, further increasing congestion on our roads. With limited public transit options and a rapidly growing population, it is crucial that we take proactive steps to address this problem before it spirals out of control.

Recently, the Ministry of Transportation released a report on possible solutions for the traffic problems in Kelowna. The report highlighted the urgency of addressing Kelowna's traffic congestion. Alarmingly, a second crossing of Okanagan Lake was not considered in the report, nor was funding allocated for any of the proposed projects. That indicates we cannot rely solely on the government to address this issue. The community must come together and advocate for proactive solutions.

I believe it is essential that we prioritize the development of alternative transportation options, such as expanding public transit, promoting cycling and implementing carpooling programs. By doing so, we can reduce the number of vehicles on our roads, thereby alleviating congestion.

But that is not the only answer. Our population will continue to grow and will need more options for both people and goods to move through our community. Thus, we must invest in infrastructure improvements that facilitate smoother traffic flow, such as synchronized traffic signals and improved road designs. These changes will not only help to reduce congestion, but will also make our roads safer for all users, including pedestrians and cyclists.

Finally, we must consider the long-term impacts of our choices today. As our city continues to grow, we must ensure we are planning for sustainable growth that takes into account the need for efficient transportation networks. This includes exploring the possibility of a second crossing, which could significantly ease traffic pressure on existing infrastructure.

As an example, a second crossing might be for specific zero-emission vehicles, rapid transit or light rail.

We must not wait for the situation to become untenable before we act. Rather, we must seize the opportunity to make a meaningful, lasting impact on the quality of life for our residents. The costs of ignoring the future and not planning for our infrastructure needs might be catastrophic. With thoughtful planning, we can ensure Kelowna remains a vibrant, prosperous community for generations to come.

My question to you this week is this:

Do you think that we need a future second crossing?

I love hearing from you, and I read every email. You can write me at [email protected] or call my office at 250-712-3620.

Renee Merrifield is the B.C. Liberal MLA for Kelowna-Mission.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.

Time to stop changing the clocks

Pick a time, any time

Many agree the seasonal time change is a confusing and often frustrating time of year.

The B.C. government brought in legislation in 2019 to stop changing our clocks but have yet to enact it.

How silly it is that we have self-driving cars and robots that can do backflips, but we can’t figure out how to stop changing the clocks back and forth?

I thought I would offer some lighthearted advice on how to survive this biannual event.

For starters, we could always try to make up for lost time by taking a nap during the day. Sure, your boss or, in my case, the Speaker of the House in the Legislative Assembly might not appreciate one dozing off, but just explain you're simply adjusting to the time change. I'm sure they'll understand...or at least pretend to.

Another option is to adopt a new sleep schedule altogether. Who says we have to adhere to this whole 24-hour day thing anyway? Maybe we could switch to a 25-hour day and make up for lost time that way. It's worth a shot, right?

If all else fails, we could always resort to extreme measures, like convincing the government to just do away with the time change altogether. I mean, if enough of us band together and sign a petition, anything is possible. Who needs daylight saving time anyway?

Oh wait, we did that already.

While B.C. listened to its residents who voiced their desire to stop changing the clocks, the government has been waiting for the U.S. to change its laws to follow suit. Some would argue that we don’t require others to follow suit, as both Saskatchewan and the Yukon do not change their clocks. Also, B.C.'s Peace Region and the Kootenay town of Creston have never changed their clocks for daylight time. (B.C.’s East Kootenay is currently aligned with the time in Alberta.)

A formal change for all of B.C. looked promising with a new law last fall when the U.S. Senate voted unanimously to make daylight time permanent across that country starting in November 2023. But the bill failed when the U.S. House of Representatives couldn't agree on whether to keep standard or daylight time.

But hope rises again as this last month a new bill was introduced in the U.S. congress to once again try to keep from moving to daylight saving time, called the Sunshine Protection Act.

Could this be the bill that brings our changing clocks to a halt once and for all?

I do wish to acknowledge the time change can be a challenging time for many people. It's important to prioritize self-care and take extra steps to ensure we're getting enough rest and staying healthy during this time.

And we know that it is even more difficult for parents, as children don’t often get the memo that they should be getting up an hour earlier or sleeping an hour later. Even parents of furry pets will struggle as their animals don’t often have clocks to watch.

And who knows? Maybe next year, we'll look back on this time and laugh. Or maybe we'll just be too busy adjusting to the next time change to even remember it. Either way, we'll get through it together, one cup of coffee at a time.

My question to you this week is this:

Do you think that we should wait for the rest of the western states to change their clocks before changing ours?

I love hearing from you, and I read every email that comes in. Please email me at [email protected] or call my office at 250-712-3620.

Renee Merrifield is the B.C. Liberal MLA for Kelowna-Mission.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.


Liberal MLA calls latest B.C. budget 'missed opportunity'

MLA blasts budget

Last week was “budget week” in the Legislative Assembly — a week that is highly anticipated for many.

The provincial budget sets out the priorities of government and shows where your tax dollars will be spent.

This was also the first opportunity for new Premier David Eby to put his mark on the province and he had pledged bold action.

Sadly, there wasn’t anything bold in this latest budget document. In fact, this was really Budget 2022 — take 2.

Instead of addressing the real needs of British Columbians, it appears to be more focused on erratic handouts that won't change the lives of our residents.

This government’s plan prioritizes spending in areas that do not generate economic growth and failed to fund crucial areas such as housing, childcare, seniors, and mental health.

One of the most concerning aspects is the predicted decrease in revenue, while still increasing spending. The NDP have increased spending by 57% over the course of its time leading government, with the size of government increasing by close to 30%.

British Columbia’s population has only increased by 6%, with the economy only growing by 15%.

That means that more money is coming out of the taxpayers’ pockets and and an increase in the deficit, with less revenue being generated from industry. This type of spending behaviour is not sustainable in the long run and could lead to more significant economic problems in the future.

The provincial deficit took 104 years to get to $50 billion, but under the current government, it doubled in six years to more than $100 billion. Paying interest costs on the debt is going to be almost $3.3 billion, this year alone.

Think about what $3.3 billion dollars could deliver to British Columbians. Instead, it just goes to pay interest.

People who reach out to my office need relief. Continual taxing while spending those dollars on debt interest rather than programs is not the way to deliver that relief.

But are they spending on the areas that matter? Let’s look at childcare, an issue that is of concern to many in Kelowna.

The province isn’t spending any further provincial dollars on childcare, but rather using federal money. I agree with using the federal money, but when we are so desperate for more spaces, this budget falls short in creating more childcare capacity.

More childcare capacity helps our labour sector, our businesses, and our economy all while contributing to gender equality.

The budget also failed to address the housing crisis in the province, with a complete reversal on the promised building of 114,000 affordable housing units.

was a significant promise made by the government, and abandoning it is deeply concerning.

Housing is a basic need, and the government must take action to ensure that every British Columbian has access to safe and affordable housing.

Seniors were also completely missed in this budget, which is unacceptable given the increasing number of seniors in our province.

As I’ve addressed in earlier columns, many seniors in Kelowna live at, or below the poverty line. Many are making difficult choices, given the cost of inflation, about whether to skip a meal or turn the lights out.

Seniors in this province deserve better, and we need to ensure that they receive the care and support they need to live a dignified and fulfilling life.

The oft-promised rental rebate was also changed from a $400 direct payment to a tax credit. That relief for renters was first promised in 2017 — six years ago. Rents have risen significantly since 2017 and the $400 tax credit will be less than one month's increased rent for many during those six years.

Healthcare and mental health are other areas that were not given enough attention in this budget. There were no new metrics or initiatives for healthcare, with mental health only receiving funding for more supply of harmful drugs but nothing in the capital plan to build more capacity in treatment and recovery. That is unacceptable given the ongoing healthcare crisis in our province.

Budget 2023 was a missed opportunity.

My question for you this week is this:

What priorities would you want the government to spend money on?

I love hearing from you, and I read all of the emails that come in. You can email my office at [email protected] or call 250-712-3620.

Renee Merrifield is the B.C. Liberal MLA for Kelowna-Mission.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.

More MLA Minute articles

About the Author

Renee Merrifield is the BC Liberal MLA for Kelowna - Mission and the Opposition critic for the Environment and Climate Change, as well as Gender, Equity and Inclusion.  She currently serves on the Select Standing Committee for Finance as well.

A long-time resident of Kelowna, Renee started, and continues to lead, many businesses from construction and development to technology. Renee is a compassionate individual who cares about others in the community, believes in giving back and helping those in need through service.

She values your feedback and conversation, and can be reached at [email protected] or 250.712.3620

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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