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.
Mark Smed: Summerland council candidate
Why would you make an effective municipal councillor?
I love bringing my skills to organizations and working with others. I have worked closely with all levels of business as an IT Consultant. My business experience has proven valuable within these organizations. Working with limited budgets and striving to achieve organizational goals is challenging. I love the challenge and the opportunity to help others. I was involved with Canadian Mental Health Association South Okanagan Similkameen (CMHA - SOS) and Pathways Addiction Resource Society in Penticton as a board member. I currently sit on the Board of Connect Wellness and Therapy in Kelowna. I am fortunate to be able to donate my time to these worthwhile organizations. My work skills have shown me that I am good at reviewing and pick up details from complex reports. It is important to ask difficult questions and consider many viewpoints.
In your view, what is the number one issue facing Summerland today, and how would you deal with it, knowing Municipal Hall only has so much power?
Expanding and improving services while maintaining a stable tax platform. It would be very easy to promise lots of change but ultimately the taxpayer is the person responsible for paying for not just the upgrades but also the ongoing maintenance.
It is a delicate balance and I believe Summerland can be more successful in attracting provincial and federal funding to help cover the cost of infrastructure expansion or service improvements. The long-term goal must be the maintenance of a stable property tax base while ensuring that all the current services are sustainable.
How would you make Summerland more affordable?
Summerland is very affordable. We offer great services and our property taxes are very reasonable. We do need to try and attract more development of low and moderately priced housing and I feel this can be achieved by expanding our community beyond the current boundaries. I would like to see Cartwright Mountain established as a park and the valley behind incorporated into Summerland.
There are ALR lands for increased agricultural development. We could establish a secondary water source by establishing a reservoir in the valley behind Cartwright Mountain that is fed from Okanagan Lake. The infrastructure changes would allow some developers to access the new lands for development of housing. These are some big ideas. I believe we need to have discussions and new ideas brought to the council table. I want to discussion on your ideas as well. I want to see everyone come to a new council with their ideas and work as a community to solve issues.
What is one example of a time you agreed with Summerland council over the past term, and one where you disagreed?
I am concerned that 97% of Summerland’s water flows from a single source; The municipal reservoir and that reservoir is 300 meters from a landfill that can potentially leach dangerous chemicals. Increasing demands on our water system, changing climates and future developments can test this very weak link in a water supply chain. I would like to complete the second reservoir and install protective linings to both. This has never been completed.
I am impressed by the Council’s response to the global pandemic and the strength and leadership they showed during these difficult times. Not one of them expected to have to deal with this situation when they were elected and I’m sure they faced challenges.
If you had $1 million to spend on anything for Summerland, how would you spend it?
I already did! I purchased a home here and I support many local businesses. In the 30 years I have lived here, I’m quite certain I have spent $1 million, and I would do it all over again. If I had a million dollars to spend on Summerland tomorrow, I would improve access to the many hiking trails but I love to hike. I would love to hear what others would do.
Picture Summerland 20 years from now. What are the key aspects that are making it thrive?
There is a magical ratio of business, agriculture and residential housing that attracts people. Some people love big cities with concert venues and strip malls. When you drive into Summerland you are greeted with fruit stands and orchards. There are signs for a winery with a small bistro. We have lots of local services like pharmacies, grocery stores, restaurants, and fuel stations. You can attend a local hockey game or swim in the lake or public pool. I would like to try and maintain this ratio by carefully expanding and improving services without losing the character that attracted more than ten thousand of us so far. Let’s continue to keep Summerland a special place for those who have already invested their lives here.