Ask a child for a solution to the world’s economic problems and they might say something like “if you need more wealth, create more wealth.”
Good advice, but unfortunately it’s not as easy as that. Governments don’t usually create wealth.
Rather, wealth is usually created by the private sector—but municipal, provincial and federal governments certainly have a role to play in laying down the right conditions for private sector investment to occur.
For example, if you are new to the central Okanagan, you may be surprised to learn Kelowna was not always considered the leading municipality it is now.
The investment in improved transportation by all three levels of government has helped propel Kelowna to the forefront of cities in B.C.
The Okanagan Connector from Merritt to Peachland played a significant role in improving access to the Central Okanagan by reducing travel times and increasing safety.
It, along with the new W.R. Bennett Bridge, improvements to the east and west bridge approaches, expanding Highway 97 to six lanes through much of Kelowna and the expansion of our international airport have helped to attract investment to our area.
This in turn, has generated jobs and improved quality of life.
This growth, along with our attractive climate, cultural and recreation amenities, and central location have inspired many to locate here—and in so doing, generating even more economic activity and the need for additional investment in health care, education and other service facilities.
In preparing for a presentation to the Kelowna Chamber of Commerce earlier this month, I was struck by the magnitude of government investment in our region over the last 20 years.
There were some investments in the 1990s, such as the Okanagan Connector. Kelowna General Hospital received a new $3.5 -million critical care unit.
On-site sewage disposal systems in McKenzie Bench area were replaced for $1.77 million.
In Lake Country, the Haddo Lake Dam spillway was replaced for $121,250.
But by any measure, the 2000s saw significantly more investment.
In health care, $254 million towards Kelowna General Hospital’s Patient Care Tower, parkade and UBC clinical academic campus and the $448 million Interior Heart and Surgical Centre.
More than $22 million for seniors’ housing projects in Kelowna and Lake Country.
Some $166.8 million went towards various programs and facilities at UBC Okanagan.
Just in September, eight new energy-efficient classes for elementary and full day kindergarten students opened at Shannon Lake Elementary—a $2.75-million investment in the leaders of tomorrow.
All told, in the 1990s, governments invested some $293 million in infrastructure.
The following decade, governments invested more than $1.5 billion—more than five times the amount invested in the ’90s.
It’s only through partnerships between all three levels of government and with the people we serve that we can continue to set the right conditions for private investment, innovation and job creation.
Together we have made much progress and together we are positioned to make more.
Norm Letnick is the Liberal MLA for Kelowna-Lake Country and the chair of the Select Standing Committee on Health for B.C.