Basran: Progress on downtown safety, not on speculation tax

The province is not budging on its idea to implement a speculation tax in Kelowna and West Kelowna.

Last month, Mayors Colin Basran and Doug Findlater met with Premier John Horgan to discuss their long lists of concern.

Basran says he took it a step further, and met with the Finance Minister in Victoria a week later.

"Two weeks ago I went down to Victoria to meet with Carole James, and basically got the same message. It's that they believe this is the right thing for our province, and for these two municipalities in Kelowna and West Kelowna. And that there is no appetite to allow us to opt out of it, and that they're going to push it forward. So, very disheartening and quite frustrating, frankly," he said.

He says the biggest hope left is Green Party leader Andrew Weaver, who's spoken against it.

"What I'm hoping is that when this legislation is proposed in the fall, that if he is so opposed to this legislation, that he'll vote against it, which in my understanding, would not cause the government to fall," he said.

"He could vote on it with his conscience, and I would hope that they (Green Party) would, with the support of the Liberal Party, defeat this legislation."

In the meeting with Findlater, Basran says Horgan claimed his government was already "locked in" to the tax.

On the topic of Kelowna's downtown, Basran admits there's still work to do when it comes to making it a safer place.

But he says new RCMP and Bylaw officers approved in the latest budget will make a difference.

Basran says the stabbing death of a man on Canada Day put a major damper on an otherwise successful day.

"I was down there with my family, and I witnessed myself, a pretty heavy police and security presence. That being said, they can't be everywhere all the time, so this is a really unfortunate incident," he said.

"I did meet actually, with Superintendent (Brent Mundle) last week, my message to him was that people aren't feeling safe downtown, and we need to do better."

He says it's understandable that some people feel unsafe there, but that there's also a silver lining.

"As horrible as this incident is, when you actually look at the facts, violent crime in our community is actually down. While I apprciate that this is a horrible incident, violent crime in our community is down, and that is a fact that is borne out by stats."

The RCMP is still in the process of hiring its four new members, who will team up with bylaw for more regular patrols.

The hirings of RCMP and bylaw officers were approved in the 2018 budget.