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: Tom Groat
Why would you make an effective city councillor?
As an educator for over thirty years, I know the importance of listening to my audience. It is important to understand where individuals are at, what issues they are having and then work towards a solution. I have a willingness to listen, learn and take the necessary steps towards a solution.
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 is experiencing exceptional growth resulting in the need to address the inadequacies in our transportation infrastructure. If we are going to achieve economic sustainability and social investment in our city, then we need to attract new businesses and young professionals to our city. This can be achieved by making it more connected and inviting.
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?
The Bennett Bridge, under the jurisdiction of the province's Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure (MOTI), is a vital link for West Kelowna residents requiring an emergency care facility (Kelowna General Hospital and Cancer Clinic), post-secondary learning, air travel or a workplace.
Short term solutions to address the Hwy 97 bottleneck could include the construction of a third lane coming off the Kelowna side of the bridge, an alternate middle lane on the bridge, elimination of the traffic lights at Abbott, Water and Ellis Streets to improve traffic flow on Harvey Avenue, creation of an overpass at Boucherie Road, elimination of some of the Hwy 97 traffic lights along the westside corridor, introduce reliable public transit with express service during peak hours, and completion of a safe active transportation corridor (ex. multi-use trails) to encourage alternatives to vehicular travel (this also comes with health, tourism, environment benefits).
Many of these solutions would require collaboration and cooperation with Kelowna and MOTI.
Do you think West Kelowna is growing too fast?
West Kelowna is one of the most desirable cities in all of Canada to live and I am proud to be a resident. Through appropriate development that maintains the characteristic, aesthetics, economic sustainability and social values of our community, the City of West Kelowna should embrace manageable growth and its benefits.
How would you make West Kelowna more affordable?
Access to affordable housing and addressing homelessness is a nation-wide concern as well as a local concern. Housing strategies that include the federal Canadian housing benefits and the provincial RDCO regional housing strategy need to be examined.
Our city could follow other communities in establishing an affordable housing reserve fund to provide direct capital assistance to housing providers wishing to build or purchase rental housing targeted specifically at low-income households.
Other strategies could include development cost charge exemptions to increase the viability of construction of affordable housing, a tax exemption specifically for Westbank Town Centre revitalization by encouraging densification, affordable housing and business opportunities.
If you had $1 million to spend on anything in the city, how would you spend it?
Any influx of capital would have a meaning benefit to our city. I would create a Friends of the Westside Trail Society incorporating a paid executive director position. The goal of this society would be to create and implement strategies to secure private and public funding to complete a multi-use trail from the WR Bennett Bridge to Goats Peak Regional Park. The purpose of the trail would be to encourage safe and easy access throughout West Kelowna by promoting active lifestyles and tourism while preserving and maintaining the lakeside and its environment.