Penticton candidates hit the campaign trail

Candidates forum scheduled for April 30 at Penticton Lakeside Resort

It’s a rookie crop of politicians, at least provincially, on the ballot for the Penticton riding in the May 14 provincial election.

But three of the four are touting their newness to the game as a positive, spending the first few days of the campaign putting up signs and door knocking throughout the riding, which extends from Peachland to Penticton.

“I’m not a career politician, I didn’t get into this to further my career. I had a wonderful fulfilling career in biology and was enjoying life immensely,” said Dick Cannings, the NDP candidate. “I got into it because I thought I could make a difference. I thought I could provide a different and really needed new perspective in politics both locally and provincially.”

Doug Maxwell, a retired mechanic who is now running for B.C. First, has similar thoughts.

“I am not a politician,” said Maxwell. “I’ve been in Penticton for 20 years and I see a lot of waste going on in government. My mandate personally is to try and change that.”

Sean Upshaw, a Kelowna resident whose last try at politics was an unsuccessful bid for the federal Conservative nomination of Okanagan Coquihalla, doesn’t like to use the title politician. He prefers “representative,” someone who is willing to go to Victoria to speak on behalf of the people of the riding.

“I recognize that the people need somebody on their side,” said Upshaw, who was a last-minute nominee for the B.C. Conservative party.

Only Penticton Mayor Dan Ashton, now running for the B.C. Liberals, is bringing any experience as a politician to the campaign. He’s relying on his record in municipal and regional politics to sway voters to his side.

“I get things done. I have long, proven track record of getting things done, and working with people to get things done. You can’t do it all by yourself,” said Ashton.  “I have shown that time and time again, in my position as  chair of the RDOS and councillor and mayor of Penticton.”

The issues the candidates have been hearing about while getting out and about in the riding vary, but all four candidates come back to the Penticton hospital expansion at some point. For Ashton, it’s the focus of his campaign, though he admits it didn’t come up as often while canvassing outside Penticton.

“The hospital is by far the largest focus for me. That hasn’t appeared in Summerland and Peachland in the door knocking,” said Ashton. “People know that it is my No. 1 priority, though.”

Upshaw, who spent his first day on the campaign trail in the northern end of the riding, also had the hospital on his mind.

“I’ve only been in Peachland, so I am not hearing about what would probably be the No. 1 issue in Penticton, and that is the future of the Penticton hospital and tower that they so desperately need and deserve,” said Upshaw.  “What I am hearing in Peachland is they are really just tired of the scandals and mismanagement of the Liberal party over the past 10 years.”

“There are local issues about the hospital. Everybody wants the new hospital wing built and we will do that. Of course, people are upset the Liberals have delayed this so long,” said Cannings, adding that the overall message he is getting is people are ready for a change. “Probably the most common are provincial issues like the Northern Gateway pipeline. People who would normally vote Liberal are saying they are going to vote NDP because they appreciate our strong stand against the pipeline.”

Maxwell, whose B.C. First party advocates eliminating party politics, said he is concerned about the provincial debt.

“There is $289,000 every hour that is spent in interest. I can’t comprehend $2.5 billion every year in interest. How much of a hospital would that build?” asked Maxwell, who also has concerns about the political queue-jumping that has delayed the hospital expansion. “We need somebody in Victoria that is willing to speak up about these things.”

The public will get their chance to put questions to the candidates at an upcoming forum organized by the Penticton and Wine Country Chamber of Commerce on April 30 at the Penticton Lakeside Resort, from 7 to 9 p.m. A second forum on May 8, concentrating on business-related issues, will only be open to chamber members.