Last year at this time, we were ushering in a new decade and reflecting on the past 10 years of incredible progress that our city has seen. It feels like another decade has passed since I penned my remarks last February, and while weary from all we have endured, I am no less optimistic for what the future has in store. The COVID-19 pandemic has left its marks on our community. I would never want to diminish the loss it has caused many, nor would I claim that its impact is behind us, but I believe we have reason to take pride in the way we are weathering this storm. The challenges of 2020 have taught us how to collaborate and come together for the common good in true Kamloops fashion.
Kamloops City Council recently conducted a major review of our strategic plan, and it was reassuring to see that, despite the pandemic, our priorities are still on point. We are moving forward in our strategic priority areas and have made revisions to stay on course, unfortunately postponing the Centre for the Arts discussion.
We continue to work hard to promote a vibrant economy. As a complement to the pandemic measures undertaken by the federal and provincial governments, we struck a task force in economic recovery and renewal to assist our citizens as we cope with the reality that this is not a short-term condition. Through this task force and the YKAStrong partnership, our business community is working together to build local resiliency. Many economic indicators for the City of Kamloops remained strong in 2020. Home sales were up, home prices were up, and we continue a five-year streak of record-breaking building permit values.
We also continue to make progress towards our goal of environmental leadership. In 2020, we launched engagement on a Community Climate Action Plan, which sets the direction for an 80% reduction in local greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. We are now composting the City’s biosolids, and we are turning our attention towards organic waste diversion. Organic waste makes up around 38% of all residential waste that ends up at our landfill. After community consultation, a pilot curbside residential organic waste collection program will begin this year.
We made the best of lock-down periods in 2020 by fast-tracking certain projects, including a $13.5 million upgrade to the Canada Games Aquatic Centre, which has extended the centre’s life cycle and made it more accessible and more energy efficient with a 35% reduction in greenhouse gas production. It is now open to the community with excellent safety protocols in place.
One of the most apparent consequences of the pandemic has been an exacerbation of social issues hitting our most vulnerable populations. At the City, we have taken several significant steps to better position ourselves to support these communities. In 2020, we undertook a complete restructuring of our Bylaw Services Division into a new Community Services Division, which will undergo enhanced training and will endeavour to strengthen relationships with local businesses, social agencies, and other partners to provide better support for people in need. We are also advocating for resources from other levels of government for initiatives such as a new sobering centre, Car 40 expansion, and enhanced social programming.
Progress in governance and accountability this past year has meant finding new ways to communicate and engage with citizens. Our aim has always been to lead by example, and our efforts were recognized with an Excellence in Governance Award from UBCM for our public engagement during the COVID-19 pandemic. We’ve worked hard to balance economic stimulus and progress with tax relief this year and are looking at a budget with the smallest tax increase in over a decade for 2021 while still moving ahead with 13 of 15 proposed supplemental budget initiatives.
We are also starting to work smarter, with better information. Thanks to a new partnership with Thompson Rivers University, the City of Kamloops now has a researcher-in-residence helping the City make more evidence-based decisions. There is a lot to look forward to in 2021. COVID vaccines are on their way and the City is preparing to accommodate large-scale implementation as soon as it’s ready. With spring around the corner, our citizens can count on a government committed to progress that will make this city healthy, inclusive, diverse, sustainable, and economically vibrant. I am confident that what we have learned and the resolve we have collectively shown throughout 2020 will spur our community towards incredible heights.
Mayor Ken Christian
City of Kamloops