Kelowna councillor-elect Rick Webber had a personal brush with crime in the city

Crime tops priority list

One of Kelowna's newest councillors secured the third most votes of the 32 candidates by spending less than $2,400, his own money, during the month-long campaign.

Former Global Okanagan anchor Rick Webber secured 11,795 votes during Kelowna's 2022 municipal election, behind only former MP Ron Cannan and incumbent Loyal Woolridge. And he did so with relatively little campaigning.

Webber did not have a campaign website, opting instead to use his personal Facebook page to connect with voters.

In a post from Sept. 22, he noted some of the things he was campaigning on, including increasing public safety and reducing crime, encouraging additional housing in the city, balancing downtown development with city infrastructure and paying more attention to the city's crowded streets.

Speaking with Castanet after the election, Webber says concern over crime was the number one issue he heard from voters over the campaign.

“It's kind of inescapable right now,” Webber said.

He had his own brush with crime last year, when he was accosted by a knife-wielding man outside his apartment building. Webber briefly filmed the man, before the man knocked the phone out of his hand and threatened to stab Webber.

“I've lived in Kelowna for 30 years and I've worked all those years on Leon Avenue at Global and I never really felt like my safety was threatened, I got along fine downtown,” Webber said.

“But recently there's been a couple of incidents where I've been accosted on the street, and it's just changed ... you don't have to look very far to see crime happening.”

The man who accosted Webber was charged in the incident, and earlier this month, he pleaded guilty and was sentenced to jail time.

While acknowledging that there's only so much a city council can do to combat crime, he'd like to see the city work to attract more RCMP officers to Kelowna.

“It's been a bit more difficult than it used to be to get Mounties to come here ... they're concerned about high housing costs here. It used to be they wanted to move to Kelowna," he said;

“I don't know if there's anything the city can do about helping the housing situation for police and for others but it's something to look into.”

He also said he'd like to see the city continue to lobby higher levels of government to increase sentences for repeat offenders.

“I think as a council we can also start working with organizations like CrimeStoppers and neighbourhood watch groups to find ways to improve security with the help of the residents and businesses,” Webber said.

In addition to the crime issue, Webber says the city's “homeless situation” also inspired him to run for council.

“All of the levels of government could be getting together better. It's a shared responsibility and a shared duty and I just don't think they're getting together and coming up with bright new ideas,” he says.

Webber believes Kelowna's Journey Home Strategy “may have now met its natural conclusion,” and “a whole new strategy needs to be thought up.”

“It's one thing to provide housing, it's another thing to provide programs after people are housed to keep them going in society,” he said, noting he doesn't believe the Journey Home Strategy failed.

“They set out to try and provide homes for everybody who's homeless back when they started. If you look at it in some ways, they succeeded. The problem is, it never took into account the continual arrival of new people who need help.”

He'd also like to see more RCMP foot patrols around downtown, particularly at the Rail Trail encampment.

Ultimately, Webber says he's looking forward to asking questions and listening to the experts on a number of issues around the city. He notes that by only spending his own money on his campaign, and not taking any donations, he'll remain an independent voice on council.

“I didn't get any support or any kind of qualifications from other organizations,” Webber said. “I just went in as an independent candidate and I want to stay that way over the next four years.”

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