Mayors and chief administrators representing Kelowna, Vernon, Penticton and the Municipal District of West Kelowna met September 21 in Kelowna to discuss issues of common interest. Along with ongoing funding for the RCMP’s Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit, the mayors are also seeking involvement from senior levels of government on transit, transportation and fire fuel mitigation.
“We’re grateful to have assurances from B.C.’s Minister of Public Safety Shirley Bond to do everything in her power to ensure this task force funding continues,” says Kelowna Mayor Sharon Shepherd. “Random gang violence can happen in any community and it’s too great a burden for municipalities to deal with alone. It’s in the national interest to ensure ongoing funding is in place to combat organized crime groups, no matter where the violence occurs.”
The mayors also agreed ongoing funding is needed to ensure communities are not endangered by forest fires. The mayors supported West Kelowna’s effort to elicit a financial commitment from the province for fire fuel mitigation.
“The threat to people and property from a forest fire is well known in the Okanagan and we need help removing the deadwood and reducing the risk of interface fires,” says District of West Kelowna Mayor Doug Findlater.
Transit and transportation issues continue to be top priorities through the Okanagan corridor.
“We are all committed to improving intersection safety on Highway 97 and improving the public transit governance model,” says Vernon Mayor Wayne Lippert. “Our intersection safety concerns and a governance model for transit that was recently presented to Central Okanagan councils will be forwarded to Transportation Minister Blair Lekstrom.”
Penticton Mayor Dan Ashton received his colleagues’ support in developing a valley-wide Asia-Pacific strategy to encourage more investment and travel from China.
“This is an area of economic development our region can work together on to explore how we can strengthen existing relationships with China and develop new opportunities in the Asian market,” says Ashton.
Intermunicipal meetings are held quarterly and alternate between municipalities. The four mayors represent more than 80 per cent of the Okanagan’s population.
By Tom Wilson, City of Kelowna Communications Supervisor