Weapons, drugs seized

One third of Kelowna residents believe the quality of life in the city is worsening, considerably above the average number of people who say this in other communities. In this file photo, local police showed some of the weapons seized in a 2019 drugs raid.

Residents of Kelowna are twice as likely as people elsewhere to name social issues as the most important local concern.


Crime, drug use, and homelessness are the type of social concerns that are top of mind for Kelowna residents, the 2020 Citizen Survey has found.


Social concerns were named at the most pressing issue by 46 per cent of Kelowna residents, compared to 23 per cent of people elsewhere who say this is their community's top challenge.


Kelowna residents are also more pessimistic than people elsewhere, with 35 per cent of people saying the city's quality of life is improving versus 22 per cent who believe the quality of life is improving.


"Residents elsewhere tend to take a more balanced view on whether their quality of life is improving or worsening," Catherine Knaus of Ipsos-Reid told council on Monday.


Commenting on the results, some councillors said the addressing social issues requires funding help from the provincial and federal governments.


"A lot of the issues that are being raised are pretty much out of our control," said Coun. Mohini Singh.


Social services "are not necessarily something we deliver", said Coun. Loyal Wooldridge.


But Coun. Brad Sieben said the city has been devoting more fiscal resources into policing and into addressing social issues through initiatives such as the Journey Home anti-homelessness program.


"A lot of the (survey results) probably aren't surprising," Sieben said. "If anything, they probably corroborate and reiterate where council is dedicating a lot of our time."


Nevertheless, Sieben said it was "concerning" that poverty, crime, and drug use were cited so often by the one-third of Kelowna residents who say the city's quality of life is worsening.


"We have to realize that people's perception of their quality of life is changing a bit, which is concerning," Sieben said.


Mayor Colin Basran suggested the survey results will help council decide budget allocations in the future.


"We'll take this information and utilize it to adjust our council priorities," Basran said. "We'll continue to deal with the issues where we have direct control and advocate on the ones where we don't."


Three years ago, 62 per cent of survey respondents said they would favour tax increases over cuts to municipal services. This year, 53 per cent said they'd favour a tax hike against 37 per cent who wanted service cuts.