Day by day Courier picks Basran as Kelowna’s 2022 Newsmaker of the Yr | Information

The name doesn’t change very often on the mayor’s desk at Kelowna City Hall. 

Since 1986, Kelowna had had only four mayors heading into 2022, with incumbents serving an average of just over eight years before retiring from politics or being defeated at the polls. 

First elected as mayor in 2014, Colin Basran may have been pretty confident through much of 2022 that he would win again if he ran for a third term. No one announced any intention to run against him. Until late June. 

That’s when Tom Dyas made the not wholly-unexpected announcement that he would run against Basran.

Dyas, a former friend of Basran’s turned determined political adversary, had campaigned for mayor in 2018 but he was soundly defeated by Basran by an almost two-to-one margin. 

In mid-October, however, Kelowna had a new mayor when Dyas thumped Basran at the polls, as voters responded to his key election theme that more needed to be done to tackle crime in Kelowna. 

The defeat was a stunning rebuke to Basran, whose ability to seemingly fit into any social or political dynamic had once made him the favourite of both the city’s business sector and its progressive cadres. 

But the real shock came earlier this month, when the B.C. Crown Prosecution Service announced Basran had been charged with sexual assault.

The charge stems from an incident alleged to have occurred in May of this year. Kelowna RCMP investigated and then, because of Basran’s prominence, sent the file to the Nelson Police Department for review. It was eventually passed to a special prosecutor, often engaged by the Crown in matters such as this.

On Dec. 1, the special prosecutor, Van­cou­ver lawyer Brock Martland, announc­ed the charge against Basran. Basran has not commented publicly about the charge; his first court date is Jan. 24.

The Daily Courier has decided to make Colin Basran and Tom Dyas the Dual News­makers of the Year for 2022: Dyas, for his determined effort to politically dislodge a man he once was so close to that they travelled together with others to New York City to celebrate Basran’s 40th birthday. 

And Basran, for so spectacularly losing the election and then going on to be charged with a crime that is so fundamentally at odds with what had been his constant support for progressive causes such as diversity, acceptance, and inclusion

The exact nature of the falling out between Basran and Dyas has never been articulated by either man. Pressed this spring on why he’d focused on defeating Basran, Dyas even denied there was a disagreement of some sort. “There was no personal falling out,” Dyas said in an interview with The Daily Courier when he announced his second run against Basran. 

“Anybody who puts themselves in a position to serve publicly is a good person. But we have different philosophies, different ideas on how to initiate those philosophies, and different positions. Nothing happened at all from a personal standpoint,” Dyas said.

But during his ill-fated 2018 campaign, Dyas often mentioned the need for “integrity” at Kel­owna City Hall. And Basran seemed to take special offence at being challenged by Dyas in that election, refusing even in victory to say if he would reach out to try repair their fractured relationship. 

This election cycle, Dyas took a more traditional tough-on-crime approach, though none of his proposals seemed to differ in any marked form from what Basran was saying. But it just seemed to matter to voters that Dyas was saying that crime was out of control, while Basran seemed to blame much of the problem on the provincial government and the courts. It was a defensive position and it hobbled him consistently through the campaign. 

Basran’s occasional direct attacks on Dyas didn’t go down well either, as when he suggested at an election forum that Dyas, a former chamber of commerce president with his own benefits firm, had only engaged with federal officials because he was trying to preserve his own business interests. That drew boos from many at the Oct. 4 forum.

But Basran’s biggest political mis-step, perhaps, did not involve Dyas. At his campaign kick-off at a downtown brewery held Sept. 8, the same day Queen Elizabeth died, Basran twice swore at former Conservative MP Ron Cannan and ordered him to leave the premises.

Cannan had been defeated as an MP in 2015 by Liberal challenger Stephen Fuhr, who had used the same campaign manager relied on by Basran in 2014 and 2018. Cannan was also involved in Dyas’ 2018 campaign, and despite the formal absence of political parties at the local level, it was easy to see the Basran-Days clash as being basically a Liberal-Con­ser­vative showdown with some real personal animus thrown in as well. 

Basran’s behaviour at his own well-attended campaign launch seemed shockingly crass and graceless and Cannan, who made a successful return to politics by winning election as a councillor, said the incident came up often on the campaign trail. 

Since the election, Basran, a former TV journalist and realtor, has kept a low profile, and even more so since he was charged with sexual assault. 

For his part, Dyas has moved to fulfill one of his campaign promises – to create a register for lobbyists at City Hall. He also presided over council’s endorsement of a slight reduction in the proposed 2023 municipal tax hike, from four per cent to 3.8 per cent, which re­duces the tax hike for a typical homeowner from $2,278 to $2,272. 

But for all his commitment during the campaign to transparency and better communication at City Hall, it has been frustratingly difficult for some members of the media to get hold of Dyas.

Routine requests for interviews, long handled by the mayor’s secretary, now have to be routed through the city’s sizable communications bureaucracy, and callbacks can take days or not come at all. 

Dyas has not responded to four interview requests from The Daily Courier since being elected.

Citizens may understandably not give that much regard, and populist politicians have certainly shown they can flourish without doing many media interviews.

And during the campaign, Dyas frequently criticized Basran for fronting so many city messaging campaigns, particularly with the use of slick professionally-produced videos. 

“I am running to be Kelowna’s next mayor because I can see so many of the critical is­sues facing our city failing to be addressed,” Dyas said in early September.

He said he would ban all city advertising not related to “public safety, community en­gage­ment, and consultation.”

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