Veteran campaigners vying to become Vernon, B.C.’s next mayor

Click to play video: 'Three veteran campaigners vying to become Vernon’s next mayor'
Three veteran campaigners vying to become Vernon’s next mayor
Three veteran campaigners vying to become Vernon’s next mayor – Oct 13, 2022

In the Vernon, B.C. mayoral race, three candidates are vying to lead the city for the next four years.

It’s expected to be a competitive election with all three bringing considerable campaign experience.

Among those running for the seat are the city’s outgoing mayor and a well-known city councillor.

Incumbent Victor Cumming is vying for a second term in office.

The regional economist says he’s seeking re-election in part to finish projects started in his first term including parks, trails and plans for infill housing.

“We’ve got the [Offical Community Plan] coming up which is a really critical time for us to acknowledge what it is that we want for the city of Vernon and include people in a really dynamic planning process,” said Cumming.
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Click to play video: 'Extended interview with Vernon mayoral candidate Victor Cumming'
Extended interview with Vernon mayoral candidate Victor Cumming

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Current city councilor Scott Anderson is looking to replace Cumming in the city’s top job.

Anderson, a business owner and former provincial party leader says he decided to run for mayor because he feels Vernon needs leadership.

“The most relevant experience I’ve got is leading the BC Conservatives for two years,” said Anderson.

“Young parties are very fractious and, although it is one of the main parties in B.C., it is nonetheless all sorts of type A personalities and it takes a real knack to be able to navigate between those opposing viewpoints.”

Click to play video: 'Extended interview with Vernon mayoral candidate Scott Anderson'
Extended interview with Vernon mayoral candidate Scott Anderson

The final candidate is Erik Olesen who has run unsuccessfully for office at both the civic and provincial levels before, including as the NDP candidate for MLA in Kelowna – Lake Country.

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Olesen works in the social service sector and promises to bring a new perspective as the only candidate for mayor not currently on council.

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Olesen said he decided to run again for mayor because issues that the city was facing the last time he ran, in 2018, are still going on today.

“I want to present a different plan and a different solution to tackle those,” Olesen said.

Click to play video: 'Extended interview with Vernon mayoral candidate Erik Olesen'
Extended interview with Vernon mayoral candidate Erik Olesen

With the latest rental vacancy rate in Vernon below 1 per cent, the housing crunch has been a major talking point on the campaign trail.

However, each candidate has their own ideas of how to tackle housing challenges for both renters and buyers.

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Anderson would focus on speeding up the approval of private developments that would serve middle-income households.

“The advantage of that is the provincially funded housing is coming out of our pockets in the form of taxation…If we utilize the private sector, that is developers’ money, that is not our money and it is no skin off our back if it doesn’t work,” Anderson said.

Olesen agrees that permitting delays is part of the problem.

“We’ve heard developers in the community speaking out about how long it has taken them to build,” Olesen said.

“I think we need to look at densification. I said this in 2018 and I’m saying it again. We lack density and density allows us to build where there is services and where people can access services.”

The incumbent mayor says work is being done to speed up city approvals. Cumming pledges more housing in the downtown core so people can use active transportation to get around.

“We are advocating with the provincial government trying to make sure we are continuing to get more projects with BC Housing,” said Cumming.

“We are going to sit with the provincial government and try to figure out a long-term program to help those who are in [the] middle that are finding difficulty getting housing.”
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On Saturday, it will be up to voters to decide which candidate has the best vision for Vernon’s future.

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