For most citizens in our area, a power outage is a rare and minor inconvenience.
Unfortunately for citizens in Peachland, power outages have become increasingly common and have created serious challenges as many parts of the community have been entirely shut down due to power loss and necessary repairs.
Aside from the economic consequences to small business, even tasks such as medication refills can be compromised without online access to health records.
With ongoing threats of summer wildfires and winter storms, reliable power supply is an important consideration for all citizens in our local communities.
Last month I was pleased to join Premier Christie Clark and members of B.C. Hydro to announce plans for a new transmission line to the Okanagan. Although this new power line will not be inexpensive, it will increase power supply to roughly 60,000 local residents and help to keep pace with growth that is expected to increase by 18 per cent over the next decade. Reliable electrical infrastructure is a critical need for communities like Peachland, and this announced new transmission line will help make that happen.
Also announced recently was the introduction of the 2015 B.C. Budget that is one of the few and possibly only balanced provincial budgets in Canada.
There are many highlights of this budget but one that all citizens of the South Okanagan can be excited about is on page 31 where a list of all capital health projects valued at more than $50 million includes our Penticton Regional Hospital patient care tower.
Page 32 of the B.C. Budget provides more detail as the total cost is estimated at $325 million. This project is part of $3.4 billion in health capital projects in British Columbia announced by our government.
Another local capital project also exceeding $50 million is the Okanagan Correctional Centre near Oliver with a completed capital cost estimated at $161 million.
Some other good news is the completion of South Okanagan Secondary School that is earning rave reviews and came in $4 million under the forecast budget. In total, $1.7 billion in capital spending has been allocated for school replacement projects.
This past week the B.C. government announced changes and an increase to our provincial minimum wage and policy. Effective Sept. 15, 2015, the change to the rate will see an increase of the general minimum hourly wage from $10.25 to $10.45 and the liquor server wage from $9 to $9.20 per hour. The change to the policy is that future increases will be linked with a formula calculated upon a percentage of the B.C. Consumer Price Index (CPI). More information can be found here: http://www.newsroom.gov.bc.ca/2015/03/bc-indexes-minimum-wage-to-provincial-cpi.html
One other important recent announcement is for single-parent families receiving income assistance. For those eligible single-parent families on income assistance, the 2015 Budget will ensure that child-support payments will be exempted from monthly social assistance payments. In the past, benefits were structured in a way that they would only apply in the absence of child-support payments. Thus, if a child-support payment was made, the income assistance payment would be reduced by the amount of the child-support payment in a practice that if often referred to as a clawback. As child-support payments will be exempt, this “clawback” will no longer impact lower-income families that receive social assistance.
To be more accessible to Summerland and Peachland residents on Tuesdays, we will have a staff member in Summerland at the Summerland Chamber of Commerce from 9 a.m. until noon, and Tuesday afternoons at the Peachland Chamber of Commerce from 1:30 until 3:30 p.m. When my schedule allows I will also be in attendance and invite people to drop by. Our Penticton constituency office remains open at 210-300 Riverside Dr., in the Penticton Riverside Plaza, and can be reached at 250-487-4400.
Dan Ashton is the Penticton MLA.