PENTICTON - Dan Ashton says all people have to do to find a reason to vote for him on May 9 is take a look around to see what he’s promised, he’s delivered.
Ashton is seeking re-election for the B.C. Liberal Party in the Penticton riding.
“I do have a track record in the community I represent, in my current position as MLA and as regional director and Mayor of Penticton,” the Trout Creek resident says.
The veteran Penticton politician, who describes himself as a small-c conservative, says he has an "incredible social conscience," instilled into him and his sisters as they were growing up by his parents.
“We were always taught to step up for the community. I don’t do it publicly, I’m not a person to stand on a stump and thump my chest, and associated with that, I hate politics. I hate it with a passion. I believe in good governance, and that’s what I practice and want to continue to practice,” Ashton says.
He believes people are tired of the polarization that exists in politics today, saying he feels electors want their elected officials to work collectively together for the betterment of the people they represent.
“The secret of my success? I believe in cooperation and collaboration. Since being elected Penticton MLA, I’ve worked diligently with my peers on both sides of the house,” he says, adding he has taken great pride in the fact he’s been able to deliver two financial reports to parliament with unanimous resolutions from both parties.
“I will never forget the people I represent from Naramata, Summerland, Penticton and Peachland. I will go to bat on a continual basis for them,” he says.
Ashton’s political career began in 1999 when he ran for his first term on Penticton city council.
“I was shooting my mouth off, having a discussion with a friend of mine who said, ‘well, if you think you can do it better, why don’t you?’” Ashton says.
He ran in a byelection, winning it, and successfully ran for council three more times before the opportunity to run for mayor came up in 2008.
“As you know, the world changed (recession) in 2008. I was successful in running for the first term, got elected for another when Minister (Bill) Barisoff retired,” he says.
Ashton ran for Penticton MLA and won, leaving a vacancy on city council that had to be filled in a byelection.
“We made some dramatic changes in Penticton and the regional district in order to cut costs and be financially accountable. When I left halfway through my term as councillor, I wanted to make sure I looked after the costs, and was doing things properly,” Ashton says, paying the province around $33,000 for the byelection out of his own pocket.
As Penticton MLA, Ashton was appointed to the Secretary for the Minister of Mining core review for two years before moving to the Minister of Finance office where he served on the Treasury Board. He’s now on the public accounts committee.
“I can’t say enough about Mike de Jong and his fiscal policies and strengths. He has kept this province on an even keel,” Ashton says.
He says the top three issues for the riding are health care, the cost of living and education.
“The hospital tower took a lot of incredible people to get going and ensure it went ahead,” he says, noting the massive $300 million project is on time and budget.
Ashton says Penticton narrowly missed out on the recent awarding of a youth mental facility, which went to Kelowna, but says a lot of money has been raised locally, and he has a good feeling about Penticton getting a similar facility in the near future.
He says his government has doubled the number of spaces for medical students, but the time frame for training is lengthy, at the same time number of the province’s doctors are coming up on retirement.
Ashton says Penticton must find ways to accommodate people wanting to make the area their home, noting the physical limits of its location.
“There are opportunities. People are coming and we need to make room. We can’t just close the gate,” he says.
While Ashton was mayor the city gave up its rights to host Ironman Canada.
“Ironman had just been taken over by its parent entity. Returns to the city were diminishing and costs were going up. The triathlon market had peaked everywhere," he says. "Officials from Whistler expressed interest in acquiring the event."
"We couldn’t afford it anymore after Ironman came to us with an outrageous demand to the City of Penticton for way more money.”
He says athletes, because of the global recession, were no longer staying in Penticton for any length of time before or after the event, diminishing the city’s return on the investment considerably.
“Challenge Penticton was something that was proposed that could be better. It hasn’t worked out, which is a shame,” Ashton says.
He justifies the province’s recent announcement of a $220,000 grant for the ITU worlds as an opportunity for the world to see Penticton and area.
“It’s going to be an international event, 5,000 people, and they aren’t coming for just one day. ITU is representing this area to the world and we’re here to help. The city is stepping forward, the province - they came and talked to me, it was a direct request to me. I said I would take it to the minister,” he says.
He says there will be "all kinds of spinoffs" generated from the 10 day triathlon festival.
“I’m more than prepared to step forward and support it, it’s a wonderful opportunity for the entire Okanagan. I think you’ll see the economic impact right away from 5,000 affluent, mobile people coming here,” he says. "Penticton can’t host 5,000 people. The valley will be full from the border to however far up.”
Ashton says he’s been motivated to stay in politics for more than 17 years because of his desire to help the community.
“For years, it wasn’t my main income, it was about practising good governance. In being able to represent the citizens who elected me, when I look back I think I did a good job,” he says.
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