On the provincial political scene, the expansion to Penticton Regional Hospital dominated 2014, and promises to continue for 2015.
Following the Dec. 22 release of a shortlist of possible builders, Penticton MLA Dan Ashton said no date has yet been set for the start of construction.
“I want to see shovels in the ground as quickly as possible,” said Ashton. “The sooner it happens the better, but again, with a $325 million project, you want to make sure all the groundwork is done properly. You don’t want any surprises in the process.”
The construction of the new patient care tower will have to be done while PRH continues to serve the people of the South Okanagan, and then renovations will take place on the older building.
“You are having to build a massive expansion around an existing hospital and we want to make sure we are doing it right, because there are no second chances,” said Ashton. “To be able to deliver that brand new hospital is something that is incredible for the whole area.”
2014 has been a busy year for the rookie MLA, who was elected to provincial office in May 2013. Previously, Ashton was Penticton mayor and chair of the regional district South Okanagan.
“Whether you take the hospital or Site C or the changes in agriculture or the changes in the liquor file, it’s been a whirlwind year. It’s been a year where everybody has been working incredibly hard,” he said.
As a member of the Treasury Board, chair of the Finance and Government Services committee and vice-chair of the Core Review working group, Ashton had a lot on his agenda in 2014.
The busy year was then topped off on Dec. 18 with a promotion to parliamentary secretary to finance minister Mike de Jong.
“I look at the calendar and it will be two years this coming May. It’s been a phenomenal learning curve and I am proud of the accomplishments,” said Ashton, who expects the provincial scene to be just as busy in 2015.
“I think it will be as active, if not more. There is a lot in the pipeline,” said Ashton, noting that the government is trying to be responsive to the requirements the people of B.C. are setting out.
“In my opinion, we are taking a very common sense approach to it. Just look at what Minister Stone has done with the highways and the speed increases,” said Ashton. “I find it invaluable being associated with it.”