Kelowna’s three Liberal MLAs like to say they ran for office together, they were elected together and they work together.
So it was not surprising that the trio of Norm Letnick (Kelowna-Lake Country), Ben Stewart (Westside-Kelowna) and Steve Thomson (Kelowna-Mission) once again joined forces to give their annual presentation to the Kelowna Chamber of Commerce Thursday.
But while Thomson, B.C.’s current forests, lands and natural resource operations minister and Stewart, a former agriculture, community and rural affairs and citizen’s services minister, handled the big picture issues of the B.C.’s economic outlook and efforts to increase trade, it was Letnick who delivered the local news.
A year after compiling a list of 18 priority projects in the community that residents want to see completed, five have been checked off the list and many of the other 13 have had substantial amounts of work done on them, he said.
While four pubic workshops have been held on the number three item, developing a strategic transportation plan for the Central Okanagan, money has been delivered from Victoria for the number four item, adding more sidewalks.
But it is probably the number seven item, more affordable housing, that has had the biggest amount of funding.
A total of $30 million from Victoria helped pay for three transitional housing projects in the city in the last 18 months, though planning for two of them was underway prior the MLA’s putting together their list
Letnick said funding has also been announced for the number 12 item on the list, wildfire mitigation efforts and the number 16 item, a new elementary school for West Kelowna has also been announced.
He said he expects the next major item on the list to be approved will be an improvement to the intersection of Highway 97 and Sexsmith Road.
“If I had to take flyer, I would say it will be that one,” said Letnick.
To show that it has not just been the work of himself, Thomson and Steward, Letnick also presented a seven-page list of projects funded by the Liberals since 2001 compared with a two-page list projects funded by the NDP during during the 1990s.
According to Lentnick, a total of $1.5 billion has been spent here since 2001, compared with just $292.7 million in the 1990s. Big ticket items here over he last 10 years include the new William R. Bennett Bridge and a new patient care tower and a planned new cardiac care centre at Kelowna General Hospital.
The list, which was the result of canvassing every home from Kelowna to Oyama late last year after consulting community leaders for ideas, established what the three MLAs call their community priorities.
Meanwhile, Stewart and Thomson said the province, while being affected by economic issues around the world, is holding its own and has turned its eyes for trade towards Asia.
A growing demand for lumber in China, the need to rebuild in Japan after the devastating earthquake and tsunami and a growing market in India all bode well for the province’s forest industry.
Thomson said it is critical for the province to invest in its infrastructure in order to get the much-sought after products that B.C. producers to market.
The MLAs also praised the jobs plan introduced by Premier Christy Clark earlier this year, saying part of the plan is to create certainty for investors so they will start business here create jobs.