Penticton politicians dominate regional boards

  • Posted on: 17 December 2014
  • By: Michael Brydon
Dec 16, 2014

Penticton-area politicians now occupy three of the top four spots on two regional boards.

Mark Pendergraft was acclaimed last week as chairman of the Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen. As the director for rural Osoyoos, he’s the sole person from outside the area picked to a leadership position. Pendergraft’s vice-chairman is Penticton Mayor Andrew Jakubeit, who bested Keremeos Mayor Manfred Bauer in a secret vote. Meanwhile, West Bench Director Michael Brydon was elected as chairman of Okanagan-Similkameen Regional Hospital District board, and Judy Sentes, a Penticton city councillor, was tapped as vice-chairwoman. Despite the heavy Penticton presence at the top of both boards, Jakubeit pledged the groups will see beyond city limits.

“We’ve all been very vocal about our regional priorities or being regionally minded in our philosophies on how the regional district should operate,” he said.

Penticton is “the hub, but we’re still regionally minded that whatever happens in the region is going to be beneficial for all of us,” Jakubeit continued.

“Regional tourism, partnerships with the First Nations, they’re all sort of key strategies, at least to my way of thinking”

With nearly 40 per cent turnover on the RDOS board following the municipal election, Pendergraft said a priority will be “moving forward with regional perspective,” but it may take awhile to figure out where exactly the organization wants to head.

“We’ve started some strategic planning, but we haven’t really come up with anything yet. I guess because it’s a new board, I think we need to get down and meet and see where we want to go,” he said.

“Everybody seems good and interested, and I think it’s going to be a great board.”

Brydon, who replaced retired Summerland mayor Janice Perrino as the head of the hospital district, said via email that with construction of the new patient care tower at Penticton Regional Hospital expected to begin in 2016, his board’s job will transition from one of advocacy for the project to a “broader oversight role.”

“My hope is that we can leverage the OSRHD’s oversight role once again to gain a seat at the priority-setting and decision-making table,” he said.

The boards of both the regional district and hospital district are composed of the same 18 directors elected in eight rural areas and member municipalities.

New RDOS board members this term include Terry Schafer (Area C), Elef Christensen (Area G), Bob Coyne (Area H), Andre Martin (Penticton), Peter Waterman (Summerland), Toni Boot (Summerland) and Sue McKortoff (Osoyoos).


Joe Fries asked me about my election to the chair of the OSRHD.  I think it was a bit of a surprise to some that I ran for the position given that I do not have an obvious connection to health (in the same way as the previous two chairs Janice Perrino and Walter Despot).  Here is Joe's question:

Can you comment on your election to lead hospital district? With the PRH project announced, is the position really just one of oversight or is there some other thing you're pushing for?

Here is my (too long) response:

The role of board of the regional hospital district is to approve budgets for the region's share of capital projects (buildings, upgrades, some major equipment, and so on).  The region's share is typically 40% with the province (through IHA) covering the other 60%.

The capital budgets themselves come from Interior Health.  IHA has its own board of directors, its own responsibilities to the Province of BC, and its own capital planning and decision making processes.  So to call the OSRHD's role "oversight" is accurate, although several other oversight mechanisms are also in place.  We are--I think it is pretty clear--well down the oversight chain of command.  Health is a provincial responsibility.  And those of us on the RDOS/OSRHD board do not necessarily have any special insights into planning complex health systems.

What we do bring to the table is: (a) broad knowledge of our own communities and (b) direct accountability to regional taxpayers.  The OSRHD did a good job under previous chairs Walter Despot and Janice Perrino leveraging the OSRHD's modest oversight role into a much more significant advocacy role.  For the past six years the OSRHD has been working very closely with IHA and the local MLAs to promote the PRH Patient Care Tower project. The results of these efforts speak for themselves.  But with most of this advocacy effort now behind us, I think it is a good time for the OSRHD to transition back to its broader oversight role.  That is why I ran for chair of the OSRHD.

The main difference going forward is that we have enormous momentum.  The road to the PRH Patient Care Tower has not been smooth. A side effect of this rocky road is the emergence of a strong working relationship between elected officials in local government, IHA leadership, and the province.  My hope is that we can leverage the OSRHD's oversight role once again to gain a seat at the priority-setting and decision-making table.  You don't have to be a health expert to know that modern healthcare involves thorny tradeoffs.  As noted above, members of the OSRHD know a lot about their communities and have a democratic mandate to speak on behalf of their constituents.  In this way the OSRHD board can bring a valuable and complementary perspective to any discussion of health priorities and tradeoffs.  This is what I am pushing for.