|NDP agriculture critic Lana Popham joined local party candidate Dick Cannings at the annual meeting of the Penticton NDP riding association on Sunday.|
Lana Popham, MLA for Saanich South, joined local candidate Dick Cannings at Sunday's annual general meeting of the Penticton NDP riding association at the Shatford Centre. Greg McGowan of Summerland was chosen as the new local party president.
Popham declined in an interview to reveal any campaign strategies in the works, but noted public support for the NDP and leader Adrian Dix continues to be strong.
"There's a lot of talk that we're doing well," she said. "People are getting to know Adrian and like what he's saying."
Popham toured orchards and vineyards throughout the South Okanagan on Sunday, but steered clear of the recent political turmoil in Boundary-Similkameen.
Earlier this month, incumbent MLA John Slater quit the B.C. Liberals to sit as an Independent after being rejected as his party's candidate. Then last week, Slater and NDP candidate Marji Basso both suddenly announced they were abandoning plans to run in the upcoming election.
Popham said she isn't aware of the details surrounding the resignations and didnÃt want to speculate.
"It's unfortunate, I think, for both sides," she said. "I don't know the story and I'm sure that's something that they would like to keep to themselves at this point and I'll respect that."
Cannings said he hasn't heard any negative backlash in the Penticton riding from Basso's resignation. However, he said many party members were dismayed over the move.
"Marji was inspirational in all the work that she had put in," he said. "I don't want to get into any speculation about what goes on down there, but it was disappointing."
The wheels are now in motion for a new nomination meeting to find a replacement for Basso, possibly in early March.
Dave Ligertwood, president of the NDP riding association in Boundary-Similkameen said members must receive at least 30 days advance notice of a nomination meeting.
"We don't plan on doing that until we know who plans on running. We hope to know who the candidate(s) will be within the next week," he said in an email.
Grand Forks Mayor Brian Taylor and Oliver health care worker Rhonda Bruce ran against Basso for the NDP nomination in 2011. Taylor later dropped out prior to the nomination meeting.
Cannings said if the NDP win the upcoming election, he would continue to fully support plans for a $300-million ambulatory care expansion at Penticton Regional Hospital.
The project, which requires the provincial government to contribute $160 million, has yet to gain treasury board approval even though it is listed as the top capital priority for Interior Health.
"Doctors and the local politicians are frustrated because decisions have been made at the cabinet level that are obviously political," Cannings said. "We've been passed over for projects that are No. 5 and No. 7 on the list."
Meanwhile, although Agriculture Minister Norm Letnick announced replant funding support at the recent B.C. Fruit Growers' Association convention in Penticton, Popham said a more stable source of support for growers is required.
"One of the themes that I hear around the province is that there has been a definite lack of stability with any announcements, programs or support for agriculture over the last 10 years," she said.
Popham, who has been the NDP agriculture critic since 2009, added that having four agriculture ministers in the last four years hasn't helped.