BRITISH COLUMBIA

BC Election 2013: Penticton Hospital Upgrades Promised By NDP

05/03/2013 01:26 EDT | Updated 07/03/2013 05:12 EDT
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An ice cream stop and a winery tour were part of NDP leader Adrian Dix's campaign trip through the Okanagan on Friday as he followed Premier Christy Clark's footsteps through the region in an attempt to correct Liberal claims that the NDP would shut down much-anticipated capital projects.

Dix was accompanied by his wife Renee Saklikar. After careful consideration of the colourful tubs at Tickleberry's ice cream parlour in Okanagan Falls, she picked death by chocolate and mango.

"You can't have any," she playfully warned Dix as she tucked into her waffle cone.

Not that Dix, who has Type 1 diabetes, needed the reminder. He didn't even go for the sugar-free vanilla, saying it is still highly caloric.

He did, however, try the wine at Stoneboat Vineyards in Oliver, where he was given a tour of the operation and told about recent innovations in winemaking.

"That's good," he said, nodding as he sipped on a glass of sparkling wine handed to him in the tank room, where the wine is fermented.

Prior to the leisurely afternoon, Dix spent some time in Penticton, where he assured residents that a much-needed upgrade at Penticton Regional Hospital will still go ahead under an NDP government.

He told residents that while they have waited ten years for the Liberals to realize the south Okanagan's regional hospital is desperately run down and overcrowded, the NDP would start the business case plan for the upgrade as soon as it is sworn in.

Clark told supporters in the region earlier in the week that an NDP government would shelve plans for the hospital upgrade and a proposed jail in Oliver.

She wasn't backing down from her claims on Friday during a tour of a Burnaby glass factory, saying redevelopment plans for Burnaby Hospital could be stopped under an NDP government. Her current list also includes the proposed Penticton Hospital and Oliver-area jail projects and a proposed Kamloops hospital project and skills centre.

"It means either they have cooked the books or they are going to freeze projects they are not telling people about," she said. "It would mean the hospital that I was born in that would require those upgrades would not happen for another four years."

In March, Fraser Health released its planning guide for Burnaby Hospital expansion and clinical services. Also announced were three patient care projects totalling $5.4 million.

Burnaby Hospital has been an ongoing political hot potato for both the Liberals and New Democrats, with patient deaths linked to poor cleanliness at the hospital and leaked documents revealing Liberal plans to discredit local NDP MLA Kathy Corrigan, the wife of Burnaby Mayor Derek Corrigan.

Dix said, unlike the Liberals' broken promises on Penticton's hospital, New Democrats will get that job done. He said the Liberals spent a decade stalling the upgrade to Penticton Regional Hospital while committing $514-million for a new roof on BC Place.

"This hospital project must be built, it can be built," he told supporters outside the hospital. "You can build four such projects for the overruns on the Vancouver Convention Centre and the (BC Place) stadium project."

Clark continued with concerns that the NDP cannot commit to those projects given their "out-of-control" spending platform.

"Burnaby Hospital, just like all those other capital projects across this province cannot wait so that the NDP can get out there with their $3 billion worth of out of control spending," she said.

Dix said he finds Clark's comments disappointing.

"More of the same politics is failing for 12 years, and then threatening people that if they don't re-elect you, then you won't get your hospital ... I think that's wrong," he said.

Clark announced last winter that the government would commit $2 million for the development of a new patient-care tower at Penticton Regional Hospital.

And in February 2012, the B.C. government announced it would build a new $200-million Okanagan prison on land owned by the Osoyoos Indian Band near Oliver.

Clark had said the project would create up to 500 direct and 500 indirect jobs, and 240 full-time jobs at the prison.

Dix said in addition to making good on the hospital renovations, his party will also improve health care in the region by expanding home support for seniors and those with chronic disabilities.

Clark's campaign focus received a vote of support Friday from Chris Mobius, operations vice president of Burnaby's Garibaldi Glass, which Clark visited. Mobius said Garibaldi Glass was near bankruptcy in 1999, but the company managed to survive.

"It's going to be a lot easier to compete on the world stage with the kind of work that we do with the right government in place," he said.

The NDP was in government during the 1990s.

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