Over the past several months a group of MLAs from all parties travelled across British Columbia stopping in 16 different communities to hear input from citizens and organizations as part of the B.C. Budget consultation process.
In total including written comments close to 1,800 submissions were received by the Select Standing Committee on Finance and Government Services, a legislative committee that I am proud to chair.
These submissions formed part of 58 recommendations that received unanimous consent from the committee and will go forward to Government for consideration. The report is close to 70 pages in length and I would encourage interested citizens to take the time to review it. A link to the .pdf report can be found on my website at danashtonmla.ca on the home page right below ‘latest MLA news.’
I would also like to thank the other members of the committee including staff who spent a considerable amount of time away from their families to gain this valuable feedback from British Columbians.
This week the B.C. Government has also announced further changes to provincial liquor licensing regulations that may be of benefit here in the Okanagan. More specifically ski hills and golf courses will be able to apply for a single license endorsement covering up to 26 events per year. This regulation will eliminate the need to apply individually for each occasion. Given the large amount of weddings in the Okanagan and other special events year round this reduction in administration will help to decrease costs and administration – a concern that was heard during the B.C. liquor policy review.
Another recent announcement that will be of interest to many in the Okanagan is the announcement of a seven year, $8.4 million agricultural replant program. This program is estimated to impact roughly 1,500 acres of orchards as newer higher value crops can be planted to help local growers increase returns. With a growing number of free trade deals being signed new opportunities are being created for new, higher value crops that fetch premium prices in expanding markets. Currently British Columbia growers produced Canada’s second largest tree fruit crop generating in excess of $100 million in farm cash receipts and ongoing replant innovations can see further increases on this progress.
Also coming to our region is 24 new licensed child-care spaces that are part of the B.C. Government Early Years Strategy. The Early Years Strategy is targeting the creation of 1,000 new child care spaces BC wide in place by March of 2015 with a further 1,000 spaces targeted to be added by March of 2016. In total there are roughly 107,000 daycare spaces currently supported by the B.C. Government.
Recently British Columbia went to the polls to elect new mayors, councillors and region district directors as part of the local Government elections. Here in the riding of Penticton we have new mayors in Peachland, Summerland and Penticton along with a number of new faces on council. I would like to invite citizens of Penticton to attend a meet and greet function on Saturday, Nov. 29 at the Penticton Trade & Convention Centre between 10 a.m. and noon. Also attending will be our Member of Parliament Dan Albas, and newly elected Penticton Mayor Andrew Jakubeit and council. This is a complimentary event to provide a casual forum for members of the public to engage with elected officials.
We will also be working on similar events in Peachland and Summerland in the future. Let us also thank our former mayors, councillors and regional district directors for serving our communities over their respective past terms.
Dan Ashton is the MLA for Penticton