A new civic group has launched in Kelowna, aiming to tip the balance of this fall’s municipal election towards climate action and good governance.
Liveable Kelowna announced this week it has registered as a third-party organization with ElectionsBC, fronted by local pediatrician Dr. Tom Warshawski and Tracey Davis of the Okanagan Climate Hub.
The group consists of residents who came together in 2021 to oppose the expansion of the McKinley Landing development over concerns related to urban sprawl and the environment.
“In doing so, we began to realize that there's a lot of structural, maybe systemic problems, with the way the mayor and council are presented with options and the way the voting comes along,” said Warshawski in an interview.
“As we move into this election, we realize that climate change as a single issue is important, but there are other issues that we think the city needs to deal with.”
Besides green policies and climate action, Warshawski says Living Kelowna will also be focusing on ensuring community voices are listened to, and that long term planning is followed through on.
Warshawski says the city embarks on large public consultation campaigns, sometimes spanning multiple years, to create policy documents like the Official Community Plan or Transportation Master Plan just to ignore them when push comes to shove.
He pointed to the approval of a UBC Okanagan’s downtown tower, at 46 storeys, far beyond the Official Community Plan’s suggested limit of 26 storeys in the area.
“That's huge,” Warshawski said. “And we think it's the wrong move. And we think that it was not well thought out.”
He says his group will push for the curbing of urban sprawl and countering the “explosion” of high rise buildings in the community. Warshawski said those two points are not mutually exclusive.
“We have to densify, it has to be done wisely,” Warshawski said, suggesting council should stick to its Official Community Plan more.
“These buildings all work in a system together,” he said, adding that building towers outside of long term planning “changes wind patterns, it changes heat patterns, it makes the city much less livable.”
He also suggested Kelowna council should move to a ward system, so one councillor is tasked with representing a specific neighbourhood or part of the city at the council table.
Warshawski says Liveable Kelowna will be circulating questionnaires to council candidates and hopes to eventually endorse those who align with their values.
He says they will be encouraging members of Liveable Kelowna to post their names publicly on the group’s website, although that is a work in progress.
Election day is October 15.