Editor’s note: This is the fourth in a series of profiles of the candidates for Penticton MLA.
Though his career as a politician is more than a decade long, Dan Ashton isn’t fond of politics.
“I don’t like politics, I never have liked politics,” said the Penticton mayor who is currently vying to be the Liberal MLA for Penticton. “I like good governance and I have always tried to practice that.”
Ashton is a well-known name in Penticton and through the Okanagan Valley. Ashton’s parents, Roy and Diana, opened the first Ashton’s Ladies Wear in Penticton in 1956, eventually spreading throughout the valley.
“Our success was in the small towns. You related to the community, you donated to the community, you became involved in the community,” said Ashton. “I learned right from the get go that to be successful you have to be involved in the community, and you always have to give back. My father and my mom bred that into all three of us, my two sisters and myself. You always contribute to your community.”
The Ashtons moved to the Okanagan from Alberta, first living in Penticton, but moving to the Trout Creek area in 1963, where Ashton still lives with his wife Monique and two teenage children, Coleton and Chantal. He remembers it as a very small town.
“It was literally the residential area for the experimental farm,” said Ashton. “A four-room school, one through seven grades, a wood lot on the back. It looks nothing like what it does now.”
After graduating from Summerland Secondary, Ashton worked for a while as a front-end brakeman with CP Rail, hauling between here and Spences Bridge. A few years and a few jobs later, Ashton returned to school, breaking that off when his father became ill in the early ‘90s.
“My dad got sick of cancer and I came home and got involved in the family business,” said Ashton, adding that along with his sisters and mother, they kept the chain of stores going. “The family business was a fixture of ladies retail in Penticton from about 1956 until 2008. My mom was 83 years old and it was time for her to retire.”
By that time, Ashton had already been on city council for almost a decade, having first been elected in a 1999 byelection. He was elected to his first term as mayor in 2008 and again in 2011.
“Elections are the necessary evil of holding a public office. I don’t know of anybody that likes going through an election process, but that is what has to happen. I have said all along, I don’t play the politics,” said Ashton, who describes himself as “centre right” on the political spectrum and a fiscal conservative.
“In my whole career in governance, hardest thing I ever had to do was make the changes that happened in Penticton and at the regional district, because I knew many of those people personally,” said Ashton, referring to layoffs in the wake of restructuring at the city and Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen, where he is also board chair. “But unfortunately when the economy changes, government should not be immune to those changes.”