co+Lab has launched a community spotlight series called “Inspired and Innovative”, or I&I, that highlights the amazing work of our local professionals, entrepreneurs and game-changers. For round three we caught up with mayoral candidate and change maker Colin Basran!
Colin Basran is a first term city councilor, former TV reporter, and mayoral candidate. He strives to build a better, more connected Okanagan rich with opportunity, culture, and life.
Kodie — For anyone who doesn’t know who you are, what’s your story? What’re you all about?
Colin — I’m a first term city councillor and we’re coming up to election in November and I’m running for mayor. In a nutshell, born and raised here in Kelowna. I’m a realtor and I’ve been a realtor for six, almost seven years. Before that I was a TV news reporter for CHBC which is the Global affiliate here in the Okanagan, I did that for about five years. I’m married with two children, they’re one and three. My dad’s side of the family, the Basran family, was one of the first Indo-Canadian families in the Okanagan, they’ve been here for about a century. We’ve been around a long time and have seen a lot of things happen. Yeah, so I was born and raised here and that’s sort of it in a nutshell.
K — You started out as a TV reporter, was that one of your first gigs?
C — It was, yeah. That was my first real “career” jobs.
K — How did you get into that?
C — I’ve always been a current events junkie, and I think I picked that up from my parents who simply enough, just subscribed to our daily newspaper and read the newspaper every day. I saw them as a kid doing that, and so I did the same thing. I became hooked with what was going on in the world, I loved watching the news. So it was just a natural fit. It wasn’t until a friend of mine came to me and said, “Colin, this would be perfect for you, go check it out.” I did, and ended up getting into the program at BCIT, which is probably one of the better programs in Western Canada, I got in and found work right away. I covered the big story at the time, the big fire of 2003. For a local, born and raised, being on TV and telling the news and telling local stories was a dream come true, I thought. But now being a local and making decisions for your community as a city councilor is even better. That for sure is a dream come true.
K — What led you to want to make a huge impact on Kelowna?
C — I started this process of wanting to be a community leader, if you will, before I had children. So for me it was more personal reasons, at the time. As somebody who’s been here born and raised the city just seemed to be getting a little bit stagnant. When I made the decision to run, I thought that Kelowna could really be this amazing place but for whatever reason we weren’t getting to that place. I felt that by getting involved I could help move our city forward. In that time, now that I have children, I wanted to make sure that there is opportunity here for them, if they choose to stay here. I want them to have options. I mean, I went away for a time. You have to go out and see the world, but if they so choose I want them to be able to stay here and not have to go and look for opportunity elsewhere. Now I don’t have to go very far to see who my decisions are impacting. I have children at home, my parents are reaching retirement age, so I really don’t need to go far to see how my decisions are affecting people.
K — What’s your grand vision for Kelowna?
C — Whoah. That’s a pretty big question, how much time do we have?
C — Well, the basics would be a vibrant economy, an availability of all types of jobs for all people. Also, that there’s a spirit of entrepreneurism here as well. It’s not just so much large companies providing jobs for people, I want a real spirit of innovation here where new companies can be born and thrive. Where new ideas can be championed so Kelowna can become known around North America and the world as a place where solutions are being found to worldwide problems. That to me is really exciting and that’s why I’m really excited about the upcoming Okanagan Centre for Innovation. I want us to be a creative community because therein will come our outside the box solutions for problems that we’ve been grappling with forever. I’m also a firm believer in arts and culture, because again it creates that creativity that we need for innovation. What else is important about arts and culture and why we need a thriving arts and culture community in Kelowna is, well let me backtrack a bit.
I was part of a group before Donnie was hired to run the OYP, basically the OYP started and we were a group put together by the chamber of commerce to help come up with solutions or ideas as to how we can attract and retain young professionals. So I helped put people around the table for that group. After we were done with the chamber of commerce was when Robert Fine our economic development officer was going to be freeing up some funds to hire somebody to run the OYP. We basically already had the board and all that was missing was the funding part to be able to run it. What we found during this whole exercise is that it’s not so much finding work that’s driving young professionals out of Kelowna, it’s this perceived lack of arts and entertainment and things that they can do while they’re here. We also found that there was a social piece missing, so one of the reasons we do socials is because we want young professionals to know that there are like-minded people in the community. I personally didn’t think these things were missing, just that they needed to be emphasized and publicised more. If you do that and support those things it’ll grow naturally. Arts, culture, and economy are connected. If you don’t have arts and culture then people leave and our economy suffers, but we can’t fund things like arts and culture without a strong economy, so the two things are linked.
In terms of planning, I really want to see our town centers densify because when we densify transit becomes more viable. I’d like to see more connected transit routes, and pedestrian and bicycle routes. If we can lessen the amount of people in suburbia-type projects and get people to live in our town centers we’re better served. Those social interactions will increase, and again out of those connections come the arts and culture, the socialization, so that’s sort of it in a nutshell. I’d just really like to see us urbanize for numerous reasons. It gets cars off the road, reduces greenhouse gasses, it preserves our outlying natural areas. We all came from somewhere, so it’s not fair to say, “Well, Kelowna’s big enough, let’s close the doors.” We are going to continue to grow, but we need to do that responsibly so that town center concept helps with that.
K — What kind of effect do you think that this social, sharing, community driven movement has? Things like car sharing and what we’re doing at the co+Lab with coworking?
C — I’m sure you guys have a term for it, but it creates those random interactions that could produce outcomes that we never thought possible. So somebody here could be working on something and could ask a question to someone else working in the space and out of that could come something we never thought possible. These spontaneous interactions, whatever you want to call them, having people working in a shared space is great. Also, what Christian’s doing is great. Here we are, they continue adding vehicles to the program. I think there are many positives to these social innovations that just make sense for Kelowna.
K — What’s something that you want people to know about that you don’t think is getting enough attention?
C — Well, it’s two in one sort of. Definitely the innovation. Entrepreneurship and innovation I’ve been a huge champion of. The Innovation Centre has me really excited as to the potential opportunities it’ll create down the road. What really excited me about this innovation piece is that people like yourself and people in the co+Lab and the majority of the people in the tech space here in Kelowna all really are socially conscious people. So what excites me or what a lot of people in Kelowna don’t realize what’s happening is this social innovation movement where profit is important, but people and the planet are an equal part of that equation. That to me is how all businesses need to be operating now. You can’t just take, take, take from society. You need to be giving back to your community and making the planet a better place. That’s what’s really exciting for me.
K — Who’s been your biggest inspiration in your work?
C — My grandfather. My grandfather played a huge role in my development. I was the oldest grandchild so I got to spend a lot of time with him. Probably because he couldn’t go anywhere without people knowing who he was, saying hello, shaking his hand. He just seemed to have this energy and personality about him that people were drawn to. So what I try to take away from that is that you can never have too many friends, and that social connections and interactions are so important. Growing up I couldn’t go over to a friends house without the parents or grandparents asking me if I was related to my grandfather. I still get it today! People still ask me to this day. He was a big influence for me because he was true to his roots. He came to Canada wanting, you know, the classic story of a better life for his family. He came here to make friends of all cultures. He didn’t just stay close to the East Indian people in Kelowna, he branched out and made friends with everybody, which is what Canada is about to me. He believed in being friends with people of all races, cultures, and faiths. I don’t really see myself as a politician, but as a connector and I learned that from him. He was connected to so many parts of our community and so if there’s one sort of general message or thing that I learned from him it was to be connected to your community and all parts of your community.
K — Are there any closing thoughts or things that you want to speak out about?
C — I think Kelowna is on the verge of great things, and that’s part of the reason that I’m running for mayor. I want to see Kelowna get to that next level in terms of innovation. I want to see cooperation between our different institutions like U.B.C.O., Okanagan College, Accelerate Okanagan, and co+Lab. There’s so many great pieces in Kelowna, but again it goes back to what we just talked about. We just need to connect them so we can all work together and head in the right direction. We can have something really special here if we all keep working in the same direction and keep working together. We’re going to thrive a lot quicker and everybody is going to benefit if we work together.