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.
Amelia Boultbee: Penticton council candidate
Why would you make an effective city councillor?
I believe my profile as both a lawyer and a local makes me uniquely situated to be a valuable member of council. As a lawyer I am trained to carefully examine all facts and evidence. I am also trained to change my mind in response to new, or better information, which is a trait I believe many politicians lack. As a person, I believe in listening to all sides. I would see my duties to the public as being focussed on good governance based on data based public policy, and that voting for what is best for Penticton as a whole would be my mandate.
Our current council has proven time and time again they cannot work collaboratively with the province on issues around crime and homelessness. I am a trained negotiator and resolve disputes for a living, and I think I can do a better job.
I am running because I truly believe the city needs me on council, and once elected, I will passionately advocate for all members of our community.
In your view, what is the number one issue facing the city today, and how would you deal with it knowing City Hall only has so much power?
The number one issue is crime, which is inextricably intertwined with mental health and addiction. It is difficult to discuss one of those topics, without reference to the others.
The reason we have prolific offenders, is because many of them have mental health and addiction issues which are going untreated. Too few police officers historically means cases which should go to the Crown for prosecution, are not. We only have two Crown prosecutors, so even when investigators are able to gather what is needed, there is a backlog and I believe Crown is not laying charges in cases where they could, because they have to prioritize.
While municipal governments have the least power over crime and mental health, that doesn’t mean we are powerless. Forging effective and proactive relationships with provincial and federal ministers to ask for what we need, and come up with creative solutions is needed. As someone who is skilled at research, I would prioritize discovering what other municipalities are doing right, and building the relationships with our provincial and federal counterparts to achieve that. I see little collaboration among our council and those ministers at this time and believe I could do that as a city councillor.
How would you make Penticton more affordable?
Lack of housing inventory is driving prices up at all levels, so adding to inventory by building both up and out is necessary. Affordable housing for seniors, those who struggle to earn a living wage, and supportive housing for those struggling with being un-housed is needed. For the latter, if mental health and addiction are the reason they are un-housed, then appropriate wrap around services must be in place to ensure the root causes of these social challenges are addressed.
While adding to inventory is needed, it is not enough. I believe a luxury home tax, particularly for non-resident homeowners could generate money that can be used to subsidize housing.
Victoria began a project that saw shipping containers converted to tiny homes, and that is an idea worth exploring. Another effect of adding to inventory through a diverse mix of housing arrangements, would be an increase in rental rooms, suites, and laneway homes.
I’d like to see Penticton develop a tech sector in the same way Kelowna has done and overall add to well paying jobs for young professionals.
What is one example of a time you agreed with city council over the past term, and one where you disagreed?
One of the most shameful mistakes our city made, was to sell a vulnerable and elderly woman’s home in a forced tax sale. The homeowner was in arrears of $10,000, and her only home was sold out from underneath her for far less than its assessed value. The woman’s sister had Power of Attorney and the woman herself was unwell, and through a series of failures to handle the situation appropriately, the home was sold before steps could be taken to prevent this outcome.
The British Columbia Ombudsperson produced a thorough report, which was critical of how our city handled this unfortunate situation. The investigation found inaccurate, inconsistent and inadequate descriptions of the tax sale process in correspondence with the woman. The report recommended that the city compensate the woman for about half her losses, which was initially rejected by the city. The city blamed the tax sale process and took little responsibility or insight into their own failures in the situation.
I agreed with the approval of the rental unit complexes on South Main and Westminster Avenue, this is one way to address the housing crisis.
If you had $1 million to spend on anything in the city, how would you spend it?
I believe in the power of our business community. We have people whose ideas could take that $1 million and turn it into $2 million. I would create a small business grant system where the best ideas for improving our industrial and downtown areas, as well as attracting tech sector businesses and turning Penticton into a four season destination are funded. Profits from the ideas that received grants would be tracked, and some percentage of that would go towards making a deal with the province for more mental health/addiction treatment beds on city property on a 50 year lease.
Picture Penticton 20 years from now. What are the key aspects that are making it thrive?
20 years from now, I want to see Penticton no longer suffering from a housing shortage, a place where everyone from a doctor to a barista to someone struggling with homelessness can successfully find a permanent roof over their head. Because people have places to live, our local businesses will thrive rather than struggle with staff shortages.
Our effective year long marketing will have branded Penticton as a four-seasons destination, so our local businesses don’t struggle to keep their doors open during the shoulder season and winter months. Because we have adequate numbers of RCMP officers and individuals are actually receiving treatment for mental health and addiction, our crime rate is low and we can walk safely at night or lock our bikes up without fear of theft. We have a vibrant young professional scene which grows new industries such as a tech economy similar to Kelowna. I think all this and more is possible with new leadership.