This past week was probably my most rewarding time yet as an MLA for our region in large part due to attending the ground breaking for the new Penticton patient care tower project.
At a cost of over $300 million, this new state of the art expansion is the single largest and most important investment in our region ever. I can now confirm that construction, which is currently underway will be completed in two phases. The 281,000 sq.ft facility is expected to be fully operational by 2019.
In addition to improved services for patients, I am excited that the new care tower will also provide space to accommodate the UBC Faculty of Medicine program. I believe this will attract new doctors to our region permanently. I would like to sincerely thank the many community champions who worked tirelessly to see this project become a reality. Having such strong support from the entire region made my job in Victoria that much easier to move a project of this magnitude forward. Special thanks to Premier Christy Clark for her continued support of this hospital expansion and for coming to Penticton to lead the ground breaking ceremony on July 12. (Read more about the ground breaking HERE)
I would also like to comment on the rural education enhancement fund that was able to help ensure that West Bench and Trout Creek elementary schools remain open instead of facing closure. From my perspective, based on my time with the finance committee, there will always be challenges with competing demands for more money in many different areas. With the rural education enhancement fund, I am pleased to say it will be a permanent fund that will provide on-going, yearly funding. We can now keep rural schools open, and that will make a significant difference for the families who live in these communities.
While this process was by no means perfect, I believe that this outcome is in the best interests for families and students. I would personally like to thank the many parents who took the time to passionately propose their ideas to keep the schools open with the school board over the past few months. However, I will say that it is a shame that the school district and board did not consider these ideas, and did not utilize the independent special advisor offered by the provincial government. In my opinion, it’s long overdue that school boards and school districts drop the politics, and do what is best for the students.
I would also like to pass on an update that the Penticton & District Community Resources Society, working in partnership with the Catalyst Community Development Society, has been selected as the proponents to build and operate the new 67-units of affordable housing that will be located at 284 Brunswick St. Peachland will also see an additional 68 units of affordable seniors housing built.
Next week the B.C. Legislature will be recalled in order to amend the Vancouver Charter so that a new taxation levy can be implemented by the City of Vancouver in an effort to tackle housing affordability. The City of Vancouver believes that taxing vacant housing owned by non-Canadian purchasers may lead to less market speculation and increased rentals. The provincial government will support other B.C. municipalities in the event they would like to pursue a similar strategy. However, personally, I am strong proponent that the supply side of the housing situation must be addressed by municipalities who need to ensure the approval of new developments in a timely manner.
If you would like to meet with me our offices in Penticton, Summerland and Peachland are open for your requirements. For further information please contact my main office in Penticton at 250-487-4400