1. What steps can Penticton city council take to ensure the proposed expansion for Penticton Regional Hospital gets approved and moves ahead as quickly as possible?
Continue forward with aggressive talks with Premier Christy Clark, and MLA representative Dan Ashton.
As vice-chair of the Okanagan Similkameen Hospital Board, and a member of the Hospital Expansion Steering Committee, I have pushed for making the improvements a top priority. Part of this commitment included establishing and chairing an ad hoc committee of community leaders with the purpose of pressing publicly for the expansion.
The outspoken support of people in Penticton for an expansion is making a difference. Penticton has been paying taxes through the Regional Hospital Board at the RDOS for years to build a capital fund for the region’s 40 per cent share. This fund now approaches $30 million. The next occasion to lobby the province to fast track the expansion will be at the Union of B.C. Municipalities meeting in mid-September.
As in the past, the mayor and city councillors will have the opportunity to meet with Interior Health, ministry officials and the official opposition. We must overcome all obstacles in the way of meeting this community’s need and work collaboratively with the provincial government, the medical community and the regional district to ensure that the hospital expansion gets built. Some time ago I pledged to do whatever it takes to get the expansion and I will continue to work until it is completed.
Dan Ashton is now the MLA for Penticton and says he is committed to the PRH upgrade. If I have to camp on his doorstep to get things moving on the expansion I will do so.
2. Should council adopt a more open format, perhaps returning to committee of the whole meetings where issues are discussed more publicly, to avoid a repeat of the tax rate bylaw incident, where the matter was debated in camera and never discussed or voted on in public?
I do believe in an honest and open to the public forum on everything. I believe in no secrets, and always tell the full truth, not a half-truth, as so many politicians have done in the past. Although, I can see it would be helpful to council to discuss beforehand though, as not everyone can be an expert on everything, and it can be helpful to be better educated, in a workshop atmosphere, and have time to think things over, so as not to waste time at council meetings, nor to make split-second decisions.
Citizens have the right to expect an open and transparent government. As acting mayor, I took an important first step towards more accountability by changing the policy for city committees. Under my direction, city committees were now required to conduct business in meetings that are open to the public, unless mandated by Section 90 of the Community Charter, under which all municipalities operate. Section 90 stipulates that only matters relating to land, legal or labour must be conducted “in camera.”
More can still be done, however. It has long been my belief that city council should be adhering more strictly to Section 90 parameters. Public access to, and debate at all council meetings needs to be encouraged. This means all meetings, including workshops, unless dealing directly with land, legal or labour issues should be open to the public. In addition to increased accountability, many members of the public have worthwhile ideas to contribute and need more opportunities to present these so Penticton can benefit.
There are only three areas where council should not be open with: legal, land and labour. There is no reason why the rest of city business cannot be discussed in the open forum.