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. An interactive database of Okanagan candidates, including previous questionnaire stories, is here and is being updated daily.
Election day is Oct. 15.
West Kelowna candidate: Stephen Johnston
Why would you make an effective city councillor?
West Kelowna has always been my home and I care about our people and the future of this community. As our city continues to experience growth, I think it's important that we work hard to create connection, cherish our agricultural and rural roots, celebrate small town values, and promote more social, recreational, cultural, and economic opportunities for everyone.
I have been an advocate for life and leadership in West Kelowna, as a baseball coach, member of the 2nd corridor/crossing study, vice-chair of the WK Economic Development Committee, candidate for Mayor in 2014, and now as a City Councillor. I'm committed to proactively serving our city with integrity, respect, and dedication.
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?
Affordability. People are finding it increasingly difficult to make ends meet, and the price of housing has become unattainable for many. As a council we need to make sure that our OCP addresses density and makes room for the “missing middle”, specifically; supportive, low-income, and seniors housing, as well as non-market & market rentals.
Additionally, we need to partner with the Province and non-profit organizations to help get these units built. We can’t approach affordability on our own, that must come through partnership. That said, we have the responsibility to lay the groundwork so that those partnerships can be successful.
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?
We must continue to lobby the province for intersection improvements on Highway 97 to ensure that we can move throughout our community as effectively as possible. While interchanges at Boucherie and Westlake Road were previously proposed by the Province, the projects were unfortunately never started. It’s essential that we appeal to the Province to bring these major improvements back to West Kelowna.
Locally we continue to invest in roads that more safely and efficiently connect our neighbourhoods, which allows our residents to travel more efficiently once they exit the highway. Ultimately, we need our neighbouring municipal and regional partners to once again work together, and advocate for solutions, and improvements to the central corridor.
Do you think West Kelowna is growing too fast?
No, but I think we are at the crossroads of needing a better balance between infrastructure improvements and growth. In short, infrastructure needs to be improved as we grow, and not after. We also need to measure what growth does for our community and the impact it will have long term.
We need to be intentional about planning for the types of housing, businesses, and services we need in West Kelowna. Growth should bring value and be a net benefit to our city and our residents.
How would you make West Kelowna more affordable?
Further to my earlier response, we could look at creating a Municipal Housing Development corporation, or preferably, attract the attention of non-profit housing providers to make investments into our community. As a council we can improve density and up-zone parcels in key areas like Westbank Centre, to give developers and investors the template to meet the demand for affordable housing.
We can require mixed-use developments in our town centre, which provide opportunities to live, work, and play in proximity. Additionally we could look at is setting a requirement for a percentage of dwellings within a mixed-use or multi-family development to be low income or non-market rental. We need to get creative to find solutions for affordability.
If you had $1 million to spend on anything in the city, how would you spend it?
I would purchase land. Land is required for so much of what we lack in our community, whether it be for sports fields, supportive housing, non-market rentals, a new ice rink, a community theatre, or seniors housing. We need land to help build value added infrastructure in our community.
For example, most of the partnerships that exist to build rental, supportive, and seniors housing, require municipalities to supply the appropriately zoned land as part of their contribution. We need to continue to identify strategic parcels that will benefit our community well into the future. Land acquisition is an essential part of building a healthy community.