Central Okanagan 

Early Years Partnership

Carol Zanon - West Kelowna Councillor candidate

Q 1: If elected, what will you do to reduce the rising vulnerability among young children in your community?

The City in its Mission Statement affirms that we must PROTECT, enhance and celebrate our West Kelowna home. I cannot ensure that all matters are debated from a child-friendly perspective, but, as a mother of 6 children, I do my best to make decisions that are best for each member of our community, and that includes our children.

I would like to see us gather the facts about this issue, and based on the results, discuss it as council works on the next Strategic Plan. West Kelowna supports the Boys and Girls Club, good programs for kids at the Westbank Library, the Johnson Bentley Aquatic Centre, and other venues Community Policing is encouraging a Block Parent Program. As well we support many agencies through our Grants-in Aid and permissive tax exemptions.

Q 2: If elected, what will you do to help increase the number of quality child care spaces in our community?

The role of a councillor in helping to increase quality child care spaces in our community involves finding the applicable programs from the province, the support of the community and getting other councillors to commit to the same goal. Zoning ,development applications and building permit procedures could be tailored to this purpose.

In terms of quality, the Powers Creek Water Treatment Plant provides some of the safest water in the province. It meets all of the criteria set by Interior Health. That is especially important to young children whose immune systems are not yet fully developed.

Q 3: If elected, will you endorse the $10aDay Child Care Plan?

Sorry for this answer, I can't endorse this program because we are not ready---yet! It is of interest, and I would like to know more about how this program works.

West Kelowna is a newer municipality, having just celebrated its tenth anniversary. We do not have all of the knowledge required to make this kind of decision right now. The council has just begun to sort out its social services responsibilities, and to work with provincial agencies and our neighbour, Westbank First Nation, to understand the issues. However, our 2018 Strategic Plan indicated that it was time to give more resources to social matters , resulting in the very first white paper on issues in our community. That report was followed by action as we implemented a homelessness assessment, and that in turn, demanded a huge commitment. When the new council convenes, it will be time to educate themselves and consider programs like this one.

Q 4: If elected, will you advocate for free access to public transit and recreation services for children and reduced transit fares for low-income individuals, families and seniors?

This is a tough question. It sounds like a worthy initiative, and a needed one. So put it down for consideration. Free access to public transportation would need to be worked out with BC Transit and our valley transportation decision-makers. It would have to be a joint decision

The council relies on identifying priorities as part of the decision-making process and finding out how to pay for them. There are a number of recreation services for children, and many of them are free, or subsidized or inexpensive. Our waterfront has a couple of child-friendly beaches, and a terrific swimming area with a zipline for older kids in Gellatly Bay. We have given grants-in-aid to various organizations, and subsidized hockey and skating activities, We support programs such as Scouts, Guides, Jumpstart and Kidsport, amongst others. We also encourage our business sector and community organizations to help out.

Q 5: The municipal government has a responsibility to avoid contributing to the problem of low-wage poverty. If elected will you commit to adopting a living wage policy requiring the municipality (or school district) to pay a living wage to both it’s employees and contract staff?

We do pay a living wage to our employees, as far as I know. Our staff is predominately unionized. They are super people who provide for the community's infrastructure and services, and many volunteer in their spare time with kids sports and organizations.

Q 6: Homelessness and housing affordability is a regional issue that has “spillover effects” from one community to another. If elected, how will you work with the City of Kelowna to support the Journey Home Strategy at a regional level?

Addressing homelessness and housing affordability are priorities in this city. Early on, after incorporation in 2007, the city worked on an affordable housing strategy, developing a policy for legal secondary suites and carriage homes. Our very first purpose-built rental housing has just been completed offering about 300 units and another 200 are under construction.

In March, the first white paper on social issues in the community was presented. In July, Westbank First Nation(WFN) joined with West Kelowna to do "point-in-time"" count in our westside communities. This provided us with a snapshot of the homeless situation. Results were recently presented to council and will lead to new commitments in the 2019 Strategic Plan. Recently, at the Union of BC Municipalities conference, our council supported the WFN request for supportive housing.

Q 7: If elected, will you participate in and support the Central Okanagan Poverty Reduction Committee - both with financial and staff resources - to develop a local poverty reduction strategy? Please describe what you see as your City’s role.

As a newer community, we are working hard to provide services and reduce poverty. In 2014 the Elizabeth fry Society presented." Setting Our Direction-Community Planning for Women and Children in West Kelowna and Peachland." led to putting measures into the 2015 planning process to include: social/safety needs in the Official Community Plan; to develop partnerships with agencies for office space; and to find a way to get services to women and families in West Kelowna, all of which are ongoing. Unfortunately, a referendum to borrow funds to build a city hall and provide space for Interior Health(IH) was narrowly defeated. .

In the meantime, the focus has been on our homeless, and how to provide services that are still sadly needed. We are prevailing on the Minister of Health to construct an urgent Care centre here on land already owned by IH. This facility would also provide care for chronic conditions, mental health and addictions. We are a city of 35,000 and only have a sorely stressed health unit to provide some care. It's all available in Kelowna, but getting there is a problem with no easy remedy.

We are highly motivated and share these issues with other municipalities. I agree that no one community can find a solution and do it alone. I applaud the Journey Home initiative. Having said that, I believe that we are not ready to join a larger committee until and unless we can understand and address some of the basic issues inherent to West Kelowna first. In my opinion, this must be done before we could be an equal partner, on a steady footing and in a position to allocate resources. Those decisions lie in the future.

Working Together on Early Childhood Development

 in the Central Okanagan

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