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Penticton makes pitch for hospital expansion at UBCM

Coming back from the UBCM conference last week, Penticton city councillors had other topics on their mind than the resolution from Metchosin regarding the decriminalization of marijuana and the ongoing debate around it.

Though the resolution was passed by the Union of B.C. Municipalities assembly, Mayor Dan Ashton said he wasn’t in favour of it, that it needs more investigation before local politicians start passing resolutions.

“If you are going to decriminalize marijuana, I think a lot of study needs to go into it, and I think it has to be done co-operatively, not only with the other provinces, but the U.S.,” said Ashton.

More important to the interests of the South Okanagan, he said, was the discussion he and other representatives had with Minister of Health Margaret MacDiarmid.

“She realizes that ambulatory care is a very efficient way to treat patients and treat them well,” said Ashton, adding that while they heard words of support and encouragement, they also got the message that the community needs to show its support for the project.

“It is now time, folks, for this community to step up to the plate. We hear loud and clear that we are No. 1 with IH, but we are not only in competition with IH but with every other tax dollar that is required in this province,” said Ashton, pointing to recent improvements at Vernon and Kelowna hospitals. “Penticton is long overdue. There is an opportunity, but they have to hear from us as a community.”

The regional district, Ashton said, has taken on the hospital expansion and has already invested about $2 million in planning and studies to support the project, as well as building up a war chest to pay the district’s share of construction costs.

Another major focus of Penticton’s lobbying efforts, Ashton said, was deer and deer culls. Communities from around the Southern Interior, he said, were well represented at a meeting with Environment Minister Terry Lake.

“We don’t mind having to do the counts and don’t mind having to justify the cull, but I can tell you, this is happening in an awful lot of communities today,” said Ashton, explaining that they are lobbying for the province to streamline the process and make it consistent.

“We are faced with deer that have not only migrated into town but many have been born here and they don’t know any different, this is their natural habitat. I heard from mayors and staff from across the southern part of B.C. about the issues that they are facing and they are identical to what Penticton is,” said Ashton. “We reinforced with him that this should not be our responsibility, we are not in charge of wildlife. We are doing our best to deal with the issue, but now it is up to the government.”

Other topics of discussion included expanding international education possibilities in Penticton and the creation of a South Okanagan cycling precinct.

Coun. Andrew Jakubeit wants the Ministry of Transportation to partner in leveraging what he calls one of the most scenic and pristine and heavily used cycling networks in the South Okanagan, as well as Penticton being named the No. 1 place to cycle by Cycling Canada magazine.

He lobbied for the ministry to take a leadership role in creating a cycling precinct, establishing standards and upgrading roadways to meet them as well as installing cycling signage and marketing of the overall project.

“It’s more than just road cycling, it would encompass mountain bike trails, the KVR Trail and the whole regional district’s trail strategy,” said Jakubeit. “The South Okanagan is already known for a superior wine experience. We would like to institute a plan and ensure the South Okanagan is also known for a superior cycling experience.”

But there was no lack of opinions about the marijuana resolution either. As it was debated at the UBCM, regional district director Tom Siddon was one of the most outspoken opposing it.

“I had my little bit to say. I have no objection for not punishing young people for doing something that is part of our growing up experience,” said Siddon. “As it has been explained to us by police authorities, if you were to decriminalize marijuana and grow-ops, you wouldn’t make the problem less, you would make it a bigger problem.”

 

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