Kelowna-Lake Country MLA blasts NDP leader

Kelowna-Lake Country MLA Norm Letnick. - Capital News file
Kelowna-Lake Country MLA Norm Letnick.
— image credit: Capital News file

If you want to raise the ire of an MLA, go to his or her riding and announce to the world that the party the MLA represents is taking constituents for granted.

That's exactly what NDP leader Adrian Dix did Wednesday during a stop at the UBC Okanagan campus to talk to students about the cost of education. The campus is located in Liberal MLA Norm Letnick's Kelowna-Lake Country riding.

Prior to the speaking to the students, DIx told the Capital News his party believes it will win seats in the Okanagan, currently a stronghold for the Liberals with all six ridings represented by Liberal MLAs. And he accused the Liberals of taking this area for granted and not paying attention to local issues.

That accusation was quickly and strongly rebuffed by an angry Letnick Thursday morning.

"I have to be careful what I say because I'm ticked off at the guy," said Letnick, noting it was ironic the NDP leader made his comments while standing in the middle of a university campus that has seen $180 million of provincial money spent there the last four years to expand and improve the campus.

Letnick said the expansion has not only created more spaces for students, it has also allowed more to continue their education closer to home, helping defray the cost of a post-secondary studies.

Accusing DIx of trying to "coddle" the student vote, Letnick blasted the NDP leader for not recognizing the UBCO investment, or the millions of dollars spent on Okanagan College, transportation improvements like transit, the Bennett Bridge, Highway 33 widening in the Black Mountain area and and the new four-laning and realignment of Highway 97 from Winfield to Oyama.

"Then there is the and nearly $1 billion on healthcare facilities here," he added, referring to a new patient care towers at Kelowna General Hospital and Vernon's Jubilee Hospital, a multi-milion dollar new clinical support building at KGH, a UBCO clinical campus building and plans for a $448-milion heart centre.

"Maybe he needs to go skating in Stuart Park where we invested $500,000 and talk to the people there or go the H2O (Aquatic) Centre that we put $5 million into and talk to people there."

Letnick said in the 11 years the Liberals have been in power, this area has had five times the capital investment it had during the 10 years the NDP was in power.

Repeatedly referring to the former NDP government as Dix's government because Dix was, at one time, chief of staff to former NDP premier Glen Clark, Letnick said while he realizes politics are at play, he is offended by the accusation that he and his Liberal colleagues MLAs Steve Thomson (Kelowna-Mission) and Ben Stewart (Westside-Kelowna) are not aware of, and work hard for, their constituents.

"Steve, Ben and I work as a team, we meet regularly and meet regularly with individuals," he said.

While he conceded that budgets are limited and there will always be more demand then there will be money to satisfy those demands,he said al three MLAs are keenly aware of local issues and are working on as many as they can.

On Wednesday, Dix said his party is the only one addressing issues of importance to farmers and fruit growers, another contention Letnick took issue with.

"His claim is nonsense. The (Agriculture) Minister Don McRae was just here last week with money for growers," said, adding all three MLAS meet regularly with growers to keep abreast of their issues.

Calling Dix comments "hooey," the local MLA pointed to past projects such as compiling a list of the public's most sought after projects that need provincial funding and the work the MLAs have done to secure that funding, as well as a planned province-wide Twitter town hall meeting on housing at the end of February he will hold and an upcoming meeting on the future of healthcare—Letnick is the chairman of the province's standing committee on healthcare—as just three examples of engaging the public on issues.

"I understand totally what Mr. Dix is trying to do. It's normal, it's politics,"  said the Kelowna-Lake Country MLA.



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