Political winners and losers from 2015 in the South Okanagan

Thursday, January 7, 2016 5:16 pm

Borrowing an idea from CBC’s The National, here are my picks for the winners and losers in South Okanagan politics over the past 12 months.

WINNERS: Summerland Council for addressing humanitarian issues. Elected in 2014 primarily on an agricultural issue, this council was the first to take the lead on issues including Syrian refugees (thank you, Coun. Doug Holmes) and the LGBTQ community (thank you, Coun. Erin Trainer).

LOSERS: Penticton City Council. I can’t think of a more unpopular group of elected municipal officials in my 30 years as a journalist.

WINNERS: Dan Ashton. The Penticton MLA has brought millions into the riding, has lived up to his promise to deliver the Penticton Regional Hospital expansion and was rewarded by the premier with a key appointment — Parliamentary secretary to the Minister of Finance (that’s a biggie) and this summer he will serve as president of the Pacific Northwest Economic Region which includes Canadian provinces and U.S. states.

LOSERS: Boundary Similkameen MLA Linda Larson. Her secret committee on the national park where nobody was allowed to know who was on the committee was dumb. Her contempt for park proponents with her follow-up statements about “crazy people” was demeaning. No apology made.

WINNERS: Penticton Indian Band. The band will be receiving 10 per cent of host city revenues from the casino for as long as the casino is in Penticton. Yet it’s Penticton residents who will have to deal with the issues that come with the facility (traffic, parking, extra policing, difficulties making a left-hand turn, etc.).

LOSERS: The school board. In their very first meeting as a new board, they gave the superintendent a hefty pay raise at a time when principals and vice-principals had their wages frozen. (The same request was made to the old board during their final meeting.) The pay raise was discussed in camera. Most offensive was that four trustees — Julie Planiden, Barb Sheppard, Ginny Manning and Shelley Clarke have declined comment as to how they voted or why they voted a certain way. Remember those names. Should you forget, don’t worry, I’ll remind everyone during the 2018 campaign. This is not democracy.

WINNERS: The Herald. Joe Fries, by far the best investigative reporter in the region, joined our newsroom full-time in February.

WINNERS: Richard Cannings. Everyone’s favourite bird watcher not only won a riding with a traditional Conservative base (Penticton), he overcame Trudeaumania II plus a last-minute challenge from a Green party candidate, to be elected Member of Parliament for the South Okanagan-West Kootenay riding.

LOSERS: Marshall Neufeld’s campaign team. Neufeld was certainly winnable at the start of the campaign and had by far the most money behind him. Limiting the number of  appearances at all-candidates forums and then not going to Pen-Hi to speak to the kids was political suicide — at least in this riding where voters are engaged. Whether it was the Tory campaign machine in Ottawa or his local advisors, it was a move which ultimately cost him the election.

WINNERS: Area D (Kaleden/ Okanagan Falls) of the Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen. The RDOS decided to purchase parkland but only did so after taking it to referendum.

LOSERS: Area G (Hedley/Olalla) of the RDOS. How does the board approve an upgrade project to the Hedley Multi-Purpose Sports Facility which includes a $1,900 managing fee to director Elef Christensen plus an additional $755 for his own labour?

WINNERS: Jake Kimberley. The outspoken former mayor has never been as popular since he became an unofficial watchdog of City Council, in particular on the Save Skaha Park issue.

WINNERS: Osoyoos, named the eighth kinkiest city in all of Canada in an online poll.