Injecting new life into Penticton’s economy is the top priority for mayoral candidate Jukka Laurio.
Although he didn’t cite statistics, the 60-year-old businessman believes the city’s economy has “tanked,” pointing to things like an abundance of vacant commercial space and unemployment.
Laurio, who ran for mayor twice before, said he means business this time around.
“This time it’s a little bit more serious because something has to be done,” said the Okanagan Falls resident, who has three adult children and a brood of grandchildren.
His answer is to expand the tourism sector.
“The only thing we have right now is two lakes and two beaches,” said Laurio.
“What we need to do is truly upscale Penticton, make it the to-go centre.”
Laurio suggested one end of the city could be reoriented for youth and the other for families in a bid to offer something for everyone.
Powering up tourism will also help curb public disorder, he added.
“There’s a direct link between petty crime and unemployment,” said Laurio.
“Give people a job and petty crime will go away.”
Laurio was also critical of the current city council for accomplishing little during its time in office.
“The whole term, they didn’t make a decision on anything…. And all the things they tried to do, they cost money because they had to renege,” he said, referencing a $200,000 buyout to put an early end Trio Marine Group’s lease of Skaha Marina.
Laurio is perhaps best known for his marijuana advocacy.
His marijuana dispensary was the first to operate openly in Penticton, eventually prompting a showdown with city council and police. He later moved the shop to Okanagan Falls, where it was raided by Mounties earlier this year.
Laurio has since gotten out of the dispensary business and hopes people don’t view him as a single-issue candidate.
The other mayoral contenders are James Blake, Jason Cox, Andrew Jakubeit, John Vassilaki and Dominic Wheeler.