Penticton MLA says opening of new PRH tower was 2019 high point

PRH open Ashton's highlight

Looking back at 2019, Penticton MLA Dan Ashton did not hesitate when asked about the high point. 

The opening of the new tower at Penticton Regional Hospital was the culmination of many years of work and millions of dollars worth of donations from the community. 

“That was the dream of so many people,” said Ashton during a year-end interview with Castanet, noting he got involved in the push for the project back in 2001 while he was a city councillor. 

The tower, bearing the name of the late philanthropist David E Kampe, is a profound legacy for a man who did so much for local nonprofits, Ashton said, adding he hopes other organizations carry on Kampe’s charitable philosophy. 

This year also saw three BC Housing projects finally come online in Penticton. Ashton praised BC Housing for the significant investments made in the city, but credited form former BC Liberal Housing Minister Rich Coleman for “kick starting” the spending when the previous government first announced the now-built project on Brunswick Street back in 2015. 

“It’s a needed commodity, so people can have a roof over their head,” Ashton said, “But people have to be able to respect what they’ve got too, that’s incredibly important, we collectively have to ensure that these units are staffed appropriately.”

Ashton says he believes the new low-barrier facility of Winnipeg Street has been properly resourced, but maintained, “the current government can’t forget, you can’t just provide a roof over somebody’s head for people with social issues — they need additional help.”

With 2019 being another year where crime and public safety dominated public discourse in Penticton, Ashton said the government needs to do more to provide people with addictions and mental health issues with the help they need. 

“I know more can be done, and it is a balancing act, but more has to be done to help. But it takes an individual too, to change their life and lifestyle. We have to be able to provide those services to those individuals when they make that decision,” Ashton said.

“But collectively, for habitual offenders, something needs to be done to ensure public safety."

Ashton is the BC Liberals’ critic for Indigenous Relations, a role he played quietly this year.

The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People passed the legislature with unanimous support from all three parties this year. Ashton credited MLAs Mike De Jong and Michael Lee for their questioning of the government on the implementation of UNRIP, which allowed it to receive unanimous support. 

“It was good to see it pass, but there are pushing five million people in B.C. now, and we all call this place home,” Ashton said. “There is incredible respect for the First Peoples that inhabited B.C., but we are all here, nobody is leaving, so we’ve all got to work together for the benefit of all.”

Wishing his constituents a healthy and prosperous 2020, Ashton said he hopes people remember how lucky we are to live in the beautiful Okanagan. 

“We live in what I consider one of the best spots in the entire world… And we want to keep it as pristine as what many of us experienced growing up here,” he said. “As more and more densification takes place, we’ve all got to do our part to ensure that the Okanagan Valley is kept up.”

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