The Central Okanagan Food Policy Council asked the City of West Kelowna election candidates some important questions on the topic of food security.
Here is who responded from the City of West Kelowna: Jerome Chung, Joe Gluska, Doug Findlater, Winston Wammer, Gord Milsom.
Thank you so much to these candidates who took the time to answer our questions on this important topic.
Here is what they had to say!
Questions 1: Across BC, only 5% of the total land base is available for agriculture and much of the farmland is underutilized. As reported in the Official Community plan, City of West Kelowna is committed to foster opportunities to provide local food security. Evidence shows that food self-sufficiency supports healthy eating and greater availability of locally produced fruits and vegetables may increase their consumption. Current data shows that only 40% of the population eat enough fruit and vegetables. How would you utilize the role of Councillor/Mayor to support agriculture in the interest of food security and public health.
Jerome Chung – Thank you for your questionnaires that allow me to express my views and thoughts with regards to food security. First off, I am not a food scientist nor have I any experience of knowledge in the food chains industry. Therefore, I will take your stats data as is.
I will answer your itemized questions as follows:
City of West Kelowna became a city in June 2015 and before it was a district of Kelowna. Therefore, it is a small city as compare to Kelowna, roughly 47.7 square miles which is less than 5% of the size of Kelowna. Being said, WK has very limited land area per capita. As I have live here long enough to see most of our agricultural land has been converted from fruit orchards to wineries over the last 10-15 years. These all boils down to corporations’ profit margins. I did realized that there has been some community gardens being allocated by the city, but in terms of large ALR being used as farmland for fruit & vegetables, I think we have a long way to go pertaining to investors or farmers who can sustain in such farming businesses. As a role in city council, I would support any viable ideas or methods, from experts & special groups like yours, that can be implemented to produce food security and public health as mentioned and questioned.
Joe Gluska – I support the official community plan. I would help the programs in place to expand awareness.
Doug Findlater – The primary role of local government is to preserve agricultural land reserve lands, and to create positive conditions for farming. West kelowna supports the agricultural land reserve when these decisions come before council. The city has an agricultural advisory committee, and agricultural plan, and a westbank centre agricultural plan. The city provides support to the “farm loop” and “westside trail” as a means of economically supporting agricultural operations through visitors both local and tourists
Winston Wammer – I would promote getting knowledgeable people together to brainstorm and bring ideas forward that would tackle issues and methods to solve or at least reduce the problems of production , shortages, wastage, and cost etc
Gord Milsom – I will support and promote “Buy Local” farm produce initiatives, the Farmers Market, and meet with West Kelowna farmers to learn what their needs/concerns are.
Question 2: 14% of people in the Okanagan are food insecure, meaning they do not have enough money to buy food. The root cause of food insecurity is poverty and in the long term requires income-based policy responses from higher levels of government. As a decision maker for the City of West Kelowna, what would the City’s role be in address food insecurity and poverty?
Jerome Chung– It is difficult to put a few lines of words to resolve these issues about poverty. We can’t eradicate the problems of poverty locally or world-wide. Yes, we see lately that there has been an increase in food insecurity and poverty in our cities right across this province and the rest of the country. Question is why? And where did they come from? In the olden days, poverty came by the stricken wars that caused economic depression. But today, the government(s) were telling us that we have a strong economy and lots of jobs created, but yet we see every young households are making ends meet and not to mentioned homelessness and severe problems with young children going hungry. I am sure one of the reasons has to do with the high cost of living in our country. Others can derive from personal individual problems such mental health, drugs, slothfulness, etc. Now, to address the food insecurity and poverty in our city; our city funds or budgets are limited and will not be able to hand out income supplement or such other individual needs. But to assist the core community NPOs that manage such issues or problems of the society, we can only allocate a certain amount of funds or grants to assist them along the way whereby these NPOs who have the expertise to deal with the Provincial & Federal government for their cause.
Joe Gluska – The role would be to make sure West Kelowna has integrated the Federal, Provincial, WFN, policies and goals are measurable.
Doug Findlater – Income levels are responsibility of federal and provincial levels under our constitution. That being said West Kelowna has tried to limit property tax increases to make home ownership more affordable. The city provides land for at least 3 community gardens in West Kelowna which are accessible to all income levels.
Winston Wammer – Our role should be to encourage agricultural production, to attract business that provides employment for residents, and to increase lesser cost housing for lower income families.
Gord Milsom – I will support the good work done by the Central Okanagan Food Bank and by other food providers within our community.
Question 3: From supply inputs to consumer purchases, the local food system is a significant driver of the local economy. Some municipal governments support economic development through event sponsorship, buy local campaigns and also engage with community groups in the interest of economic development. What do you see as the role of government to support agriculture production and food system sustainability as an economic driver in our community?
Jerome Chung– Government(s) are elected by the people to best represent their well being in the society, community, provincially or federally. Government elected officials should have the best interest at heart for the people’s well being. Therefore, I don’t think that our government(s) is not supporting our agriculture and food system. In West Kelowna, we have to ask the question as to whether there is/are any farmers or agriculture organizations that would like to invest in our allocated ALR that can be sustainable, productive, and profitable. At this time, do we have the infrastructure to support them? And an absolute “Yes”, as a council we will support such entrepreneurs or enterprises if they are willing to come here to invest.
Joe Gluska – With the large amounts of ALR Land in West Kelowna it is important to support all of the policies that promote farm to table awareness.
Doug Findlater – See my response from Question 1.
Winston Wammer – We should be a participant to bring other governing bodies together to find solutions for issues that affect us all and unite in ways to reduce emissions and improve production.
Gord Milsom – I will support and showcase our agricultural industry, including our successful Farm Loop, any buy local campaigns, and agri-tourism initiatives.
Question 4: Climate change and its impacts are becoming more apparent globally and locally through changing weather patterns, such as the 2017 floods. The global food system and prevalent agriculture practices contribute to Greenhouse Gas Emissions. What role do you see local government officials having in addressing this challenge?
Jerome Chung – As mentioned in my other questionnaires from Kelowna Capital News, this is and was not an issue as to whether our local government has done its share in reducing pollutants in the air that climate scientist(s) has/have claimed to be the cause of climate changes. Floods around rivers or lakes are a natural thing and it does happen from time to time. That why it’s safer to build your house on higher grounds. I believe and know that our local government has done enough to get our city clean from pollution and as such that may have caused greenhouse effects as compare to the rest of the world. Our contribution to Greenhouse Gas Emissions is very much insignificant as compare to other cities in Canada or the USA and the big cities. I believe the significant climate change is not caused by the consumption of natural living on this earth, but rather from the past & present wars around the world that were using weapons of mass destruction. You can do your due diligence to research into this matter. Military spending by our Federal gov’t and other countries are astronomical as compare to what is spend on the global food system. It is high time that we should lobby for Federal gov’t to invest more on resources that can provide clean energy within our country.
Joe Gluska – First, we have to careful in linking the flood of 2017 to a changing climate weather pattern, the data is to new and more information is needed. The municipal government needs to support the provincial and federal plans in place. Municipal government should act if the residents are demanding a specific type of action.
Doug Findlater – Farm practices are governed by the agricultural land commission of BC. Local regulations concerning farm practices are completely overridden by the agricultural land commission.
Winston Wammer – By doing the aforementioned actions and implementing a plan based on best practices
Gord Milsom – I am not aware of any concerns that West Kelowna’s agricultural community is a meaningful contributor to Greenhouse Gas Emissions.
Question 5: Food Policy Councils support local government on developing and implementing food security related policy. There are municipalities across BC and Canada that support food policy councils with funding and/or in kind support. As an elected official, how would you integrate their work into your community?
Jerome Chung – As mentioned above, I know that our council do have a budget for support in legit local NPOs that deal with specific needs of the society or community. Therefore, as elected official I will continue the support of this quest for the well being of our society/community.
Joe Gluska – Evaluating the programs and their success is prudent on councils position. Picking programs that best benefit the West Kelowna residents is the challenge for the newly elected council of West Kelowna. Supporting best practice is very important going forward.
Doug Findlater – I think you should submit a delegation request to speak to the next council about what your organization does and how it can assist citizens of West Kelowna.
Winston Wammer – Communicating with all levels of government and the public relating to food issues would get more attention and results.
Gord Milsom – The City of West Kelowna exempts the Central Okanagan Food Bank from municipal property taxes and I would support that the City continue to do so.