Candidates on culture

Three of four mayoral candidates took the floor to discuss arts and culture in Kelowna, Wednesday night at the Rotary Centre for the Arts.

Bobby Kennedy, Colin Basran and Tom Dyas were in the hot seat for the forum put on by the Arts Council of the Central Okanagan. Bob Schewe did not attend, as he was reportedly under the weather.

Candidates were asked a series of questions, including how can Kelowna better promote artwork and achievements of marginalized communities, especially those of Indigenous backgrounds?

“The budget that the art community has been given has not increased in a number of years,” said Dyas. “They receive a certain amount of funding from the city, from the province, from the federal government and then they are on their own for the rest. It’s been capped.”

Dyas said it has grown tighter and tighter as costs have increased and people have had to “drop off.”

He said right now there is not enough space for Indigenous artists to operate.

Kennedy said the solution is to “open up our City Park a lot more … we could be scheduling…” he said.

“Recently, our attitude towards street performers is to eliminate them, to give them fines,” said Kennedy. “I don’t think we are being that inclusive to anybody, whether they are Indigenous or they are just an artist trying to get their thing out there.”

Basran, sat quietly until his turn and was quick to make a correction about Dyas’ remarks.

“I know we aren’t supposed to make this a debate, but I have to call out untruths, so I have to let everybody know that the arts budget in our community over our last term has actually increased by $400,000,” said Basran.

He went on to say he is proud of the work the current council has done to develop relationships with Indigenous artists.

Basran said he is proud of the city's relationship with the Kelowna Museum Society and Westbank First Nation museum, including naming Kelowna parks and increasing cultural tourism.

“These are stories people want to hear,” he said. “I am excited to build this partnership. We are already showcasing some of the beautiful native art work we have in our community.”

Basran said more can be done, such as adding native artwork at Kelowna International Airport.

Candidates were also asked if they would they march in the Kelowna Pride parade. All three candidates said they would.

“One hundred per cent I would march,” said Kennedy. “I am a absolutely a huge supporter of all communities, Pride included.”

Dyas said it would be his responsibility to be inclusive to everyone in Kelowna. He said he has not marched in the past, but it would be his responsibility if he becomes mayor.

“I am probably closer to it than most people realize and understand, but it is personal to me. I have an individual who is very, very important to me, and the path they chose is one of diversity,” he said.

“This person is a person I love, and straight forward to them I said: you will continually and forever have my love."

Basran, who has been a vocal supporter of Pride events in Kelowna, said it is pretty clear where his heart has been on this issue.

“I have and will continue to march in the Pride Parada and the Trans march whether I am elected Mayor or not,” he said.

To watch the entire forum, you can view our Castanet livestream below.

Live coverage of the Arts Council of the Central Okanagan mayoral forum at the Mary Irwin Theatre in Kelowna.

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