Liberal MLAs outline balanced budget; detail further hospital expansion

Work is continuing on the second phase of the Royal Inland Hospital upgrade

By Cam Fortems

Kamloops This Week

While there were no specifics in last week’s provincial budget, the city’s two MLAs and cabinet minister said Friday that work is continuing on the second phase of the Royal Inland Hospital upgrade and that there is possibility of investment at TRU.

Kamloops-South Thompson MLA and Transportation Minister Todd Stone, along with Kamloops-North Thompson MLA and Health Minister Terry Lake, provided an update at the traditional Kamloops Chamber of Commerce lunch meeting following the provincial budget.

The pair outlined the balanced budget that provided a $100-million downpayment on the promised Prosperity Fund, which Premier Christy Clark said in the 2013 provincial election would be funded with revenue from liquid natural-gas projects.

The $100 million does not stem from LNG projects, but from the province’s surplus.

Critics have called the Prosperity Fund because no corporations have moved forward with LNG investments, though Stone predicted that will change by next year.

That budget makes B.C. the best performing province for a number of categories, including jobs and credit rating. Stone said that is evident from the numbers and from looking at the number of Canadians and immigrants moving to the province.

Lake said in an interview the $80-million first phase of RIH upgrades, the visible parkade and clinical-services building along Columbia Street, is due to be complete by July.

The next phase is the $240-million surgical tower.

“I’m hopeful we’ll go to request for proposals in February 2017,” Lake said.

Local taxpayers will contribute another $160 million to the project.

“I’m hopeful sometime in 2017 we’ll have shovels in the ground,” Lake said. “I don’t want to get too far ahead.”

That 2017 date would put activity in the midst of the next provincial election, which will be held in May.

Treasury board of cabinet is considering a set of capital projects for post-secondary institutions in B.C., one of them Thompson Rivers University’s proposed new trades building, valued at $30 million.

“TRU put forward an exceptional business plan for a trades and technology building, a new building adjacent to the existing one,” Stone told reporters.

That plan is under evaluation

“I’m hopeful we should have some good news on that project soon,” he said.