Premier strays from script on Penticton hospital

Briefing notes make no mention of commitment to "kick down those barriers" to jumpstart $300-million expansion project

Briefing notes show Premier Christy Clark may have gone off script during a February visit to Penticton Regional Hospital

Briefing notes show Premier Christy Clark may have gone off script during a February visit to Penticton Regional Hospital

FOI-Penticton Briefing Note for Premier by Joe Fries

Premier Christy Clark may have gone off script in February when she paid a visit to Penticton Regional Hospital and promised afterwards to get bureaucrats moving on planning work for a $300-million expansion project.

The premier toured PRH on Feb. 15 and told reporters afterwards that she would “kick down those barriers” that had stalled development of a business case for the proposed ambulatory care tower.

That course of action was not, however, mentioned in a briefing note prepared for Clark in advance of her trip to Penticton and obtained by the Western News through a freedom of information request.

“There are many calls in the community to expand and upgrade the 61-year-old Penticton Regional Hospital and there is growing frustration that Penticton is being overlooked in favour of hospital capital projects in Vernon and Kelowna,” the note states.

Then, in preparation for questions on the issue, the note advises Clark only to acknowledge that she understands the hospital tower is a priority for the community and that her government is committed to building it, but no timeline is attached.

The note also suggests she talk about how much money the Liberal government spent on health-care capital projects since gaining power in 2001, and explain the difficulties faced by decision-makers trying to balance funding requests across B.C.

Clark returned to the hospital in March to announce her government had come up with $2 million to complete the business case, and “notionally identified” cash for construction of the tower.

Other topics addressed in the briefing note for Clark’s February visit to the South Okanagan include:

WestJet Encore overlooks Penticton: The city was not included on the initial list of destinations to be served by WestJet’s new regional carrier. Clark was advised to respond by noting that additional destinations are expected to be announced as the company receives aircraft this year, and that Encore’s stated focus is on western Canada.

Nuisance deer: Media reports raised concerns about problems associated with deer in urban areas. The premier was told to explain that solutions will vary by community, and that the B.C. government can provide staff to consult on deer management plans, help with development of hunting regulations and loan equipment where needed.

Future policing costs in Osoyoos: The town’s population is expected for the first time to exceed 5,000 when the 2016 census is conducted, which will result in a big increase in the cost of RCMP service. Clark was to mention that cost-sharing formulas are set out in federal agreements and the B.C. government “would encourage emerging municipalities to prepare for the possible future increases in policing costs.”

— Affordable housing in Oliver: The cost of housing is becoming an increasing concern for the town. It’s suggested the premier touch on legislative amendments that are meant to increase the supply of rental housing, and also note the B.C. government provides $500,000 annually for subsidized housing and rent supplements for 150 households in Oliver.