Photo taken by Peter C on Flickr (https://www.flickr.com/photos/pchiu/)
Photo taken by Peter C on Flickr (https://www.flickr.com/photos/pchiu/)

The Mayoral Debate at UBC Okanagan offered the candidates running for mayor a chance to discuss their campaign platforms, speak to what leadership means to them, as well as answer questions from the community.

In answering the question of what leadership looks like to them, Bobby Kennedy began by stating that the role of the mayor is to be a leader of the council. He emphasized that the mayor represents everyone in the community. For Kennedy, the most important aspect of leadership is integrity.

Colin Basran argued that leadership, especially in regard to being a mayor, is a multifaceted role. The job of the mayor is to empower the city council and to be a team player. He believes in empowering staff members.

Bob Schewe stated that leadership involves listening to the public. If elected as mayor, he would have an open door and open ear policy. Schewe’s emphasis on listening to the public comes from his personal experience of working for the public in the Kelowna bylaw office.

Tom Dyas thinks of leadership in the context of mayor as leading by example. To lead is to be someone that others look up to. He emphasizes that to be an effective leader it is important to have depth and experience to call upon. This is particularly important to him as the mayor must communicate with federal, municipal, and community partners.

All candidates were asked a specific question regarding their campaigns or previous statements. They were then asked whether, if elected, they would support decriminalization of opioids and push for more harm reduction.

Basran acknowledged that decriminalization does work in some countries, but stated that “we are quite not ready for it in Western societies.” However, he is a proponent of harm reduction because it is saving lives. He states that there are other important strategies to get people off the streets, naming community spaces for addiction treatment and housing as other solutions to the opioid crisis.

Schewe stated that first and foremost we have to recognize that there are two types of people that live on the streets. The first are those who are qualified, and willing to work and cooperate with social agencies, such as Journey Home. Schewe states that these are the people we need to help get off the streets as soon as possible. However, Schewe also stated that there is another segment to street life, the people who are “preying upon the weaker, basically drug dealing, pimping,” as well as vandalizing, shoplifting, and stealing. These people, and their way of life, Schewe said, are not welcome in Kelowna.

Dyas stated that the issue of decriminalization is a federal issue. Dyas would like to work alongside their federal counterparts to examine the potential benefits and harms of implementing a system like this. Dyas welcomes and is willing to have a conversation around advocacy and policy work.

Kennedy states that he would push for harm reduction measures. He says that some view the opioid crisis as a difficult issue because they feel that they must ask for the money to fix it or take money out of the pockets of constituents via tax increase. He said rather than going that route, Kennedy opts to introduce a City Cannabis Tax on cannabis, which would be a “small little fee on the backend sale at those dispensaries,” which would help to fund these projects.

This article includes only a small sample of the questions asked at the debate.

For the full debate video click here.

For an article outlining mayoral campaign platforms click here.