Kelowna Mayor Tom Dyas says council members attending this week’s Union of B.C. Municipalities convention spoke with provincial ministers about priorities ranging from establishing a possible 300 new daycare spaces to advancing key transportation projects.
Dyas said the minister meetings offered an opportunity to bring important community issues to the attention of the provincial government representatives and staff, and set the agenda for future discussions.
“The intent is to be here to not only speak to the ministers, but also to speak to other mayors and other councillors throughout the province to gather as much information as we possibly can to advance, and be the best we can be in dealing with these situations,” Dyas said.
He said council members met with Rachna Singh, minister of education and child care, and Grace Lore, minister of state for child care, letting them know about discussions happening regarding some city property which might advance potentially 300 more daycare spaces.
“Those are just preliminary discussions, but it was good to be able to have that one-on-one discussion with them about those particular items,” Dyas said.
He said council members thanked the ministers for the $3.7 million put towards the Kelowna Airport YMCA Child Care Centre.
Dyas said they spoke about the need for schools in Kelowna, bringing sites like Rutland middle school and Wilden elementary to the ministers’ attention.
Rob Fleming, minister of transportation and infrastructure, was asked about accelerating timelines for the transit operations centre.
“There is a number of preliminary work that can be done around design, also around bringing the proper electrical needs to that site,” Dyas said.
“We were speaking on how do we get that so it’s advanced sooner? What prep work can we can we do so that when the federal government is also looking at funding available, we’re shovel ready to go on that particular site.”
He said they spoke about advancing the Highway 33 and Clement Avenue extension project, acknowledging funds were made available to help with initial planning, but council wants to see the work move forward.
Discussions with Fleming also covered the slide which saw the closure of Highway 97, and exploring alternative route structures that might be considered in the future.
Meetings with Ravi Kahlon, minister of housing, focused on advancing purpose-built emergency shelters in the community before winter sets in, and securing funding for affordable and attainable housing projects.
“The city has land that is available to advance those projects, but we need the assistance of the province to come in and help us cover the cost of building the projects and in some situations, the continual maintenance and management of those projects,” Dyas said.
Dyas said council discussed the need for more police constables and the reestablishment of auxiliary policing with Mike Farnworth, minister of public safety and solicitor general.
Council met with Jennifer Whiteside, minister of mental health and addictions, to discuss the 20 complex care beds promised for Kelowna and not yet fully established, and the need for a regional addictions and mental health treatment centre.
The cities of Kelowna and Kamloops put forward a resolution asking UBCM to lobby the province for increased funding for mental health and treatment programs, including more innovative care models. This resolution was endorsed by delegates without debate.
Alongside Dyas, Kelowna councillors Ron Cannan, Maxine Dehart, Gord Lovegrove, Mohini Singh and Loyal Wooldridge attended the UBCM convention.