Two sides to tax issue

Transition back to Provincial Sales Tax requires good communication between government and taxpayers.

There are many lessons to be learned as we travel along the road of life, one of those is the need to always recognize that there are two sides on every issue.

Nowhere is this lesson more true than in public office as elected officials very quickly learn issues that at first glance may seem simple are often far more complex once additional information is provided.  The same holds true for taxpayers.

Often it is very difficult to understand the decisions made by elected officials in large part due to the fact that governments often do not do a very effective job in communicating to citizens.  On April 1, B.C. reverted back to the PST (from the HST.) It must be pointed out that government did a very poor job in explaining the benefits of HST over PST.

My comments this week are not intended to revisit this issue but rather to point out the importance of communication between government and taxpayers.

Recently we were all saddened to hear of the passing of former Alberta Premier Ralph Klein.

Much has been said about the many legacies and lessons that Klein shared with not just Alberta, but Canada as a country.

Above all else Klein was a very effective communicator with citizens and from my perspective it is very rewarding that Premier Klein is being widely recognized in many different circles for his unique but sincere ability to make a difference.

I believe most citizens run for public office with the best of intentions and to make a difference however not all achieve the goals they set out to accomplish.

Getting things done within government is often very different than in the private sector and I believe it is important to recognize leaders like Klein who were instrumental in bringing about great change.

It should also not be forgotten that not all leaders in public office are recognized for those things they do, often very quietly behind the scenes.

Much has been said recently about the Penticton Regional Hospital expansion project, and some of that information is not accurate.

When I decided to put my name forward to run for re-election in 2009, I did so in large part because many significant projects we had worked on for years were very close to ground breaking, but had not yet broken ground.

The Penticton Hospital Expansion was not among these capital projects, in fact this expansion was only first raised with me in September, 2010.

It also must be noted that it was not the local medical community or Interior Health that raised this project.  Former Keremeos Mayor and chair of the Okanagan-Similkameen Regional Hospital District Walter Despot was in fact the true champion of this project.

Despot was a tenacious advocate for this hospital expansion and met directly with the leadership of the Interior Health authority, the Minister of Health at that time, and respective MLAs, MPs along with fellow mayors and councillors.

Behind closed doors this capital expansion was not referenced as being the “top” priority of Interior Health — a fact that did not in any way deter Despot.

Over the past two years the RDOS, through the Regional Hospital District, has been working diligently towards making the business case for the Hospital expansion and also setting aside funding.  Current chair and a community leader very familiar with the Penticton Hospital Janice Perrino, is now carrying on with the work that Walter Despot started.

For the record, I firmly support this much-needed project and believe it will begin construction in the near future.

When that day arrives at the opening ceremonies when the ribbon will be cut I hope that all citizens take a moment to remember elected officials like Walter Despot who worked quietly, but effectively behind the scenes to make a difference.

Bill Barisoff is the MLA for the riding of Penticton.