Prime 10 Kelowna Tales of 2022: No. 10 – Crime and development | Information
An annual Top 10 News Stories of the Year list without a COVID-19 story?
The pandemic is not over, and even descriptions of it as ebbing seem inaccurate given the deaths of another 2,292 British Columbians due to the disease in 2022, as of Monday.
The provincial death toll from the pandemic is now at 4,715, according to the BC Center for Disease Control.
But mask mandates and quarrels over mandatory vaccinations are many months in the past, and the pages of this and other papers are returning to the familiar if not exactly welcome topics of crime, drugs, soaring home costs, and the twin promises and perils of record -setting growth in Kelowna.
The Daily Courier today begins its countdown of the 10 most significant local news stories. The pandemic is there in some of them, but more as a lurking backdrop than a unique horror all on its own.
As ever, we appreciate your feedback and comments at [email protected]
No. 10 – Canada’s fastest-growing city also its crime capital
Kelowna made the top of two lists this year – Canada’s fastest-growing city and also its most crime-ridden.
The first title was championed by city officials as an example of all the good things going on in Kelowna.
The second title generated some pushback from city officials and police, who said it didn’t reflect reality. At one point, former mayor Colin Basran blamed Kelowna’s neighbors for much of the misdeeds attributed to Kelowna.
If the number of offenses committed in West Kelowna, Lake Country, Peachland, and Westbank First Nation is taken out of the crime rate calculation, Kelowna’s ranking drops from worst overall to 54th nationally, Basran said at an election forum in early October.
Basran’s main challenger and the eventual victor in the mayoral race, responded that crime rates based on census metropolitan areas have long been used to provide a fair picture of the overall safety of the country’s largest urban areas, where almost three-quarters of Canadians live.
Crime was the main topic in the Kelowna municipal election, with Basran and other incumbent councilors defending their record by saying the city had hired many more RCMP officers, advocated for more provincial programs to address homelessness and mental health issues, while also calling for tougher sentences for prolific offenses.
On other statistics-related issues, Kelowna’s municipal officials were happy to have the city and the surrounding communities bundled together. Information from the 2021 census released earlier this year showed greater Kelowna was the fastest-growing metropolitan area in Canada, with a 14 percent population increase to 222,000 people since 2016.
Top city planner Ryan Smith said in an interview earlier this year that the rapid growth rate attests to the continuing appeal of Kelowna both as a retirement destination but also increasingly as a region with a vibrant economy and a diversity of employment opportunities and lifestyle options.
“There’s a lot of people from all over Canada and the world who’ve discovered Kelowna,” Smith said. “We’re not the best-kept secret anymore.
“We’ve got a fantastic city with a great waterfront and a great climate,” he said. “In the last five years, a lot of people have moved out of bigger urban areas elsewhere and moved to Kelowna.”
Asked if he thought it was good or bad for Kelowna to have Canada’s fastest growth rate, Smith said it was neither: “It’s just the way it is.”
Growth can bring economic prosperity, low unemployment, and more vibrant neighborhoods, he said. But it can also bring more traffic, rising housing costs due to demand, and social problems like increased crime.
Along with Canada’s fastest growth rate, Kelowna also has its third-fastest growing downtown population. The number of people living downtown rose 24 percent from 2016 to 2021, to 16,605. Only Montreal and Halifax posted stronger population growth rates in their downtown cores.