Castanet News has distributed a questionnaire to city council candidates in both Kelowna and West Kelowna to help voters get to know those putting their names forward. Between the two cities, 45 people are running for city councillor.
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. Election day is Oct. 15.
West Kelowna candidate: Rick de Jong (incumbent)
Why would you make an effective city councillor?
With a passion for this community, an eagerness to serve, 32 years of business experience, and three terms as a West Kelowna councillor, I am a strong candidate for re-election to council. My volunteer work over the years includes Central Okanagan Youth Soccer, Central Okanagan Area Planning Committee, West Kelowna Board of Variance, and West Kelowna Agricultural Advisory Committee. During my time on council I have represented West Kelowna at the Central Okanagan Regional Board, Central Okanagan Economic Development Commission, and the Kelowna Airport Advisory Committee. During my time on council I have been told that my views are down to earth and practical. As we continue to grow and move forward as a community I would be honoured to serve the residents of West Kelowna for another four years.
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 City of West Kelowna incorporated in 2007. We are a young, fast growing community. In my view it is very hard to list just one key issue when there are so many that require attention. My re-election campaign is drawing attention to four key areas of focus as we move forward together; fire rescue services, safe streets, core infrastructure, and community amenities. A
s our population increases so too do the demands on policing, fire rescue services, community amenities, and core infrastructure such as roads, sidewalks, and water. It is through council’s strategic priorities and the city’s budgeting process that council provides direction to ensure that city resources are being used to meet the many needs of our community.
It could be decades before a second bridge is built across Okanagan Lake. How do you deal with West Kelowna's transportation bottleneck in the meantime?
Many of those who call West Kelowna home work in Kelowna. For some, improving the bicycle network that can safely get people to the bridge and beyond is an option. For others the answer is a reliable transit system that runs with enough frequency and stops to be viable. Many, especially in winter, rely on their automobile to traverse the Highway 97 corridor, which is managed by the provincial government. When the provincial government is prepared to make upgrades along this route to improve traffic flows, West Kelowna council needs to be supportive.
We need to lobby the province to follow through on upgrading the various intersections along Highway 97 such as at Boucherie Road and Hudson Road where removal of the lights and the installation of off/on ramps will facilitate the movement of traffic. A new bridge is years away, in the mean time all levels of government and our regional partners such as Kelowna and Westbank First Nation need to work together to find in-term solutions.
Do you think West Kelowna is growing too fast?
I think West Kelowna is growing at the right rate. A recent study presented to council shows that, at the current rate of housing development, we can meet the expected growth of our community over the years to come. As West Kelowna grows, we need city processes and policies that encourage smart development while being inclusive of public feed back and input. The city’s new Official Community Plan will be finalized by our next council and it will guide development across West Kelowna for years to come. Getting this document right is critical so having discussions about growth need to continue.
How would you make West Kelowna more affordable?
Housing in West Kelowna may be attainable for some but it is certainly not affordable. Many of the tools to address housing attainability rest with higher levels of government, not at the local municipal government level. However, local government does have a role to play by supporting smart development and housing diversity. As the supply and diversity of various housing forms from townhouses, duplexes, apartments, and single family homes increase, we ensure housing availability of different housing forms at different pricing levels to meet the many different needs of those of us who call West Kelowna home.
If you had $1 million to spend on anything in the city, how would you spend it?
One million dollars represents roughly a 1.6% tax relief for property taxes across West Kelowna. It is tempting to apply these monies towards a one year tax break, especially today with the rising costs of inflation and the financial pressures many are facing. However, what else could be done with this money that would have longer term impacts and include a message of unity, as we move forward together?
If I had a million dollars to spend on anything in the city I would use the funds to build the first inclusive and accessible playground in West Kelowna. Julia’s Junction is being planned as an accessible and inclusive playground for all kids, grand kids and great grand kids around West Kelowna. A local family is spearheading this initiative and one million dollars would really help get the project done. A playground for all kids today, tomorrow, and for years to come.