B.C. NDP leader Adrian Dix speaks to reporters Saturday in Penticton while local candidate Dick Cannings looks on. A recent poll found support for the party is weakest in the Interior.

B.C. NDP leader Adrian Dix speaks to reporters Saturday in Penticton while local candidate Dick Cannings looks on. A recent poll found support for the party is weakest in the Interior.

Dix wades into debate on proposed Penticton hospital tower

NDP leader visited the city Saturday for private meeting with doctors and also expressed support for more consideration of national park

Adrian Dix will reopen talks on a national park in the South Okanagan-Similkameen and work to come up with money to build a new hospital tower in Penticton if his party wins the spring election, he told reporters Saturday.

“This hospital (tower) will be built. Of course,” the B.C. NDP leader said during a visit to the campaign headquarters of local party candidate Dick Cannings.

“We’ve got to work the process now and we’ve got to get on with it. And that’s what we’re going to do.”

Premier Christy Clark on Wednesday staged a press conference at Penticton Regional Hospital where she committed $2 million to develop a business case for the proposed ambulatory care tower and said her government had “notionally” identified money for the project in its long-term capital plan.

Dix visited the hospital Saturday but held a private meeting with doctors, an approach he said is more “respectful” than the one employed by the Liberals.

“The difference between me and others is that I’m not going in there with television cameras and saying, ‘Look at the state of Liberal health care.’ I’m more respectful.”

He pledged to carry on with the business case, but did not, however, commit to any timelines for how quickly the tower might get built if his party forms government. Nor did he commit one way or the other on the idea of a national park in this region.

Planning work on the park stalled in December 2011 when the B.C. government withdrew from the process due to a stated lack of public support. Dix thinks the decision was too hasty and the park at least deserves further consideration.

“Ranchers have raised some issues… and we have to talk with them, meet with them and address those issues,” he said. “But I don’t think you throw away opportunities.

“This would bring investment into the region, significant jobs into the region, and so we should fully pursue that opportunity.”

Just seven weeks remain until the May 14 election and both Dix and his party enjoyed big leads in poll results released Thursday.

The Angus Reid survey found 48 per cent of decided voters intended to support the NDP, versus the 28 per cent who favoured the Liberals.  Dix earned a personal approval rating of 47 per cent, compared to 27 per cent for Clark.

That same poll also found NDP support is weakest in the Interior, where the party was favoured by 39 per cent of decided voters, good for just an eight-point lead on the Liberals.

Dix said that despite good poll numbers, he still sees his party as the underdog.

“The Liberal party has so much money they’ve been running negative ads against me for 15 months. They have so much money that Liberal front groups are running some of the nastiest personal attack ads the province has ever seen,” he said.

“They have the government, they’ve won three straight election. The NDP has won three out of the last 21 elections. We’re always the underdog.”