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.
Shannon Stewart: Penticton council candidate
Why would you make an effective city councillor?
I am passionate and focused. I understand organizational structure, and the importance of meaningful relationships. What sets me apart from others is my willingness to seek out and invite opinions, ideas and feedback from all interested parties in order to ensure I am as prepared as possible to evaluate and incorporate the necessary information and arrive at an objective and well considered decision. I am far more interested in being a part of the conversation and being able to listen and be heard, than in simply being right. The best decisions are the ones that meet the best interest of the majority and not one that addresses any personal or individual agenda or priority.
While able to hold space for and facilitate these discussions, I am well grounded in basic finance and business principals and can, therefore provide the necessary leadership in order to ensure the conversations remain specifically targeted to the topic at hand.
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?
Of utmost concern is the safety and security of our residents, without which we cannot hope to maintain or grow as a municipality. This issue is impacted by many factors, including a lack of resources to address the mental health and addiction challenges Penticton is facing; the lack of affordable housing for all populations both young and old, and by the lack of successful working relationships or partnerships among the various stakeholders invested in the positive resolution to these challenges. City Hall may be limited in some avenues but has yet to realize the power that can be levied through collective and collaborative voices being unified and raised in demand for the supports deemed necessary to function.
How would you make Penticton more affordable?
Affordability is a broad term and refers to many areas of life - housing, food costs, access to education, ability to meet basic needs, the option for proper medical and dental care. While there are countries that fall into a universal approach to basic needs, ours is not completely identified with those approaches. Seeking out options available in other locations to provide better access to resources for our whole population would address the overarching concept of affordability in my eyes.
Another avenue to support these efforts is to unify and connect the various agencies who are vested with the responsibility of delivering these services in our community. The individual or silo approach, which pits one non-profit against another to secure the necessary funding to staff these services is counter-productive and results in major gaps and some duplication. Coordinating these resources to maximize provincial and federal dollars will increase overall affordability of said supports while also decrease individual need as a result of receiving more consistent or appropriate resources to meet their needs.
What is one example of a time you agreed with city council over the past term, and one where you disagreed?
I support the prioritization of the northern corridor as an important city initiative, as it will diversify our commercial core and improves access, optics and presentation of our city overall.
I question the sale of city owned land along Skaha Lake as it does not align with any previous decisions to preserve our parklands for municipal green spaces. We need a clear perspective on the OCP, confirmation that it meets the needs of our overall community and the determination to follow it as a broadly agreed upon guideline or directive.
If you had $1 million to spend on anything in the city, how would you spend it?
I can hear the Barenaked Ladies singing! I would look to invest in a long term, sustainable initiative; for example, partnering with our First Nations neighbours to upgrade and improve the Penticton Channel walk and bike paths to better meet the needs of our entire community. At present, there are challenges for seniors, families and pet owners trying to utilize the pathway for recreation and health purposes, and it would be of benefit to residents and tourists alike to improve overall access, function, and appearance as a major municipal attraction.
Picture Penticton 20 years from now. What are the key aspects that are making it thrive?
We will never return to the sleepy little town depicted in the film My American Cousin; however, we can recapture the pride and our sense of community that marks Penticton as a preferred location to live, work and play. We will have increased the sense of security that allows everyone to participate in our vibrant city as active enthusiasts who appreciate the recreation opportunities, the access to locally grown and sustainable food sources, the emphasis on a community that prioritizes every resident’s health and wellness as a matter of course, rather than a special interest or focus group.
Meeting the needs of the whole is the best way to ensure we are addressing the interests of the individual…. there is no question in my mind that Penticton can realize this with a concerted and committed effort from a new mayor and council.