Castanet News has distributed a questionnaire to each candidate running for local council in the South Okanagan.
All candidates have been given the same questions, and answers have been edited for clarity and brevity when needed. Responses will be published daily in the weeks ahead. An interactive database of Okanagan candidates, including previous questionnaire stories, is available here and is being updated daily.
Election day is Oct. 15.
Oliver candidate: Keith Quesnelle
Why would you make an effective town councillor?
I am hard working, diligent, tenacious and above all, enthusiastic. My philosophy is, and has always been, in business and life, when something needs to get done then, together "LET'S GET IT DONE." That is why I have chosen that phrase to be my campaign slogan. Council members are asked to be representatives on various boards and committees. Committees such as the Community Safety and Crime Prevention committee, the Municipal Insurance Association of BC committee and various Finance and Budget committees. I have an extensive background in law enforcement, protective services, insurance and business management and hope to add my knowledge and experience in these areas, not only to assist on some of these committees but to council in general. I truly enjoy being involved in the communities that I live in and what better way to do that than serving the community as a town councillor.
In your view, what is the number one issue facing Oliver today, and how would you deal with it, knowing Town Hall only has so much power?
Crime is still the number one concern of many Oliver citizens. Crime issues dominated the public issues agenda during the 2019 Oliver Citizen survey. With total crime still 57 per cent above the national average and property crime at 70 per cent above the national average, more must be done as I believe crime prevention remains the number one priority for investment in Oliver. There are no easy solutions, but it is the area I would commit to being my number one focus if elected.
I think we need to get the whole community motivated and focused on this issue as it will take a team effort from everyone. Adding two additional RCMP officers is a great addition but not the only solution. Council needs to support some new-and-improved community watch programs, something I have some experience with, in addition to continuing to support and expand our Oliver Crime Watch group. We also need to find some new and creative was to raise funds for this purpose so as to try and keep future tax increases to a minimum.
How would you make Oliver more affordable?
A tough question considering town councils have very limited power in this area as supply and demand and many other market factors are at play. I do believe, however, that affordable housing is an important factor, and we can try to influence that by continuing to ensure that our new housing projects meet the needs of most of our citizens. We could do that by continuing to encourage developers to build more affordable homes and perhaps offering some incentives or subsidies to encourage younger families to want to move here and make Oliver their home. In addition, we need to be creative in attracting more local businesses to Oliver. This could provide some employment opportunities for those families, provide some healthy competition to keep prices in check and increase our tax base. Both these initiatives would also have the potential to help keep future property tax increases down.
What is one example of a time you agreed with Oliver council over the past term, and one where you disagreed?
I totally agreed with town council donating $8,000 toward Oliver Crime Watch being able to purchase a good reliable vehicle and council also approving them to outfit their vehicle with a dash cam to help with their personal safety. These volunteers give their own time to help deter unlawful activity and it is imperative that we give these citizens all the support we can, especially when it comes to their safety.
I disagreed with town council considering a permit for a facelift to an existing downtown structure that would replace brick with stucco without any provision to add some additional aesthetics. Some council members questioned whether it is council’s job to dictate the appropriate appearance of downtown storefronts. My understanding is that council is now waiting for the project developers to just provide a landscaping quote before approving the permit. I disagree with this and believe that it is in fact the job of the town council to maintain and enhance the appearance of the downtown area.
If you had $1 million to spend on anything for Oliver, how would you spend it?
Not a lot of money these days, but I’d take it. I would divide it up three ways. I would use one third towards some new crime prevention initiatives, it’s not enough but it’s a start. I would spend a third on an initiative to try and attract some doctors or hospital staff to Oliver. Perhaps towards purchasing a home or suite that we could offer to visiting health care professionals so they could stay longer if coming to help without having to worry about finding accommodations or commuting.
I would use the last third towards some additional food security initiatives. There are tough times ahead for all of us with inflation at record highs. However, this will impact the most vulnerable in our community disproportionally. Now may be the time to be thinking about purchasing some land for some additional community type gardens where families, new members of the community and some of the less fortunate can work together to increase their food security and not have to depend on overburdened services.
Picture Oliver 20 years from now. What are the key aspects that are making it thrive?
A lot can happen in 20 years, but I see a town full of spirit and pride. A town thriving with people of all ages, seniors, and young families alike. I see a safe and secure self-sustaining food supply. We would have our own municipal police force and a crime rate well below the national average. We would be world renowned for our wine production with people visiting from all over the world to tour our wineries. New businesses would have moved in so we would have just the right amount of competition to keep things affordable. We would be the gem of the Okanagan due to our unique ability to have made our town a beautiful and “affordable” place to call home. We would also have solved our health care issues and everyone would have access to quality health care services right here in Oliver.