With all three candidates showing support, the fate of Penticton’s proposed youth centre is not going to be affected by the election outcome.
At the all-candidates forum held by the Penticton and Wine Country Chamber of Commerce at the SS Sicamous on April 25, Liberal MLA Dan Ashton said Penticton was very close to recieving provincial funding which went to other communities including Kelowna and Keremeos.
Ashton said he went to bat for Penticton to get the funding.
“Penticton came this close to getting that unit. There were five throughout the province. Penticton was this close. We missed out, but with the new funding and my discussions with Minister (of Health Terry) Lake before the writ was dropped, we’re very sure that Penticton is going to go ahead because of the people who stepped forward,” Ashton said.
NDP candidate Tarik Sayeed also threw his party’s support behind the project.
“There has been a request made and they are working on it. But the thing is, how many more kids need to die to get funding from this government right now,” Sayeed said.
The NDP made a commitment to a $30 million community fund to help initiatives like the YES Project while the Liberals made a campaign promise of $165 million new dollars in the budget for youth mental health.
The project has nearly garnered $750,000 from donors and community members on its own, and it aims to bring mental health intiatives together as well, which Ashton pointed out.
“What we can do is provide the help that goes into it, but also we have to get rid of the silos. There’s a lot of organizations in this town that look after youth, mental health and health. What we have to do is make sure that everybody is working together and the YES Project is going to be a flagship for that,” Ashton said.
Aaron McRann, executive director of the South Okanagan Similkameen Community Foundation, the larger organization overseeing the YES Project, is hopeful the YES Project will be the one of the recipients of future promised funding.
“We’re still working through the process of preparing for the youth centre and we’re very close to being ready to go. One of our hopes is that the provincial government will support the project and help us get started,” McRann said.
He said the outcome of the provincial election will have little impact on the now 16-month-long effort.
“We’ve received excellent political support from everyone, from all politicians, so I’m not concerned from that perspective. I’m not concerned at all really. We’re waiting for the government machine to do its work,” McRann said.
The project is currently investigating multiple locations in Penticton for the centre and is close to their $1.5 million goal.
Community support is ongoing and is picking up steam, McRann said.
“Every week I’m speaking with someone, either individuals or companies, that are interested in supporting the opening of the youth centre,” McRann said. “It’s really important to us that it is a community initiative. We’re not just looking for big dollar donors, that’s not necessarily going to ensure the project is going to become the community asset that it needs to be.”
The YES Project wants the community to feel a sense of ownership with the new facility as well.
“That requires buy-in and requires people to be involved with the development process,” McRann said.
There have been a few fundraisers held, but the full fundraising process has yet to begin, as McRann said they are awaiting direction from the province to help better explain how the project will roll out over the next couple of months.
“I don’t think it’s so much the political process that is forcing us to wait it out right now I think there are just a lot of logistical, internal government work being done right now. I don’t think it’s political at all. Politically, the support is there,” McRann said.