Victoria: The B.C. government is putting people first by making life more affordable, improving vital services like healthcare and education, and creating a strong, sustainable economy that produces good-paying jobs in communities across British Columbia.
As the Minister of Citizens’ Services and MLA for Surrey-Panorama, I have heard time and again from my constituents and from British Columbians around the province that over the past 16 years, life was becoming less affordable and people were finding it harder to make ends meet.
Like so many of my fellow British Columbians, I had to stop and wonder, if our economy was doing so well, how could be that so many people were being left behind.
But now British Columbians have a government that is working for them and Budget 2018 is a turning point for the people of this province. It is a declaration that all British Columbians deserve to share in the prosperity of this great province, not just the wealthy and well-connected.
With this budget, we are on track to fully eliminate MSP premiums and save hard-working families up to $1,800 per year. Ferry fares will be frozen on all major routes and reduced by 15% on smaller routes, while seniors can travel to see family free of charge Monday to Thursday.
Our government is making a $1 billion investment into child care over three years, the largest such investment in this province’s history. This will lower costs for parents, increase the availability of high-quality child care spaces and ensure our children benefit from excellent standards of care.
Our plan includes the creation of 22,000 new licenced child care spaces across British Columbia. As many as 86,000 families across this province will enjoy an affordable child care benefit of up to $1,250 per month towards child care by 2020 ,and families earning less than $45,000 per year will pay almost nothing.
For housing, we are making the largest investment in B.C.’s history – $6.6 billion over 10 years – to build and maintain affordable housing to help ensure working people can afford to live in this province. We are also increasing and expanding the foreign buyers’ tax as well as introducing a new tax to deter speculation to help address challenges in the housing market.
On education, there is much to celebrate in this budget including $2 billion over the fiscal plan to maintain, replace, renovate or expand schools across B.C.
Included in this plan are two new secondary schools and three new elementary schools for the Surrey region, projects that will create an estimated 5,000 new student spaces, which will help get our kids out of portables and into classrooms. There will also be seismic upgrades for Bear Creek and Mary Jane Shannon elementary schools and a 12-classroom addition at Pacific Heights. Other new schools are in the planning stage and will be announced in the near future.
Surrey will also benefit from an $8 million investment in the Fraser Valley Cancer Centre to expand the acute care unit chemotherapy area as well as $15 million from BC Housing for 50 transitional beds and 50 shelter beds, for men and women who are homeless or at risk. Finally, the Kekinow Native Housing Society will receive $9.4 million for a 106-unit project.
We’ve also set aside $24 million to improve accessibility, passenger amenities and capacity at Surrey Central Station.
After 16 years of neglect, we finally have a budget that is investing in the people of Surrey and all British Columbians. Our government is helping build a future that considers the needs of the many, not just a privileged few.
We are making unprecedented investments in affordable housing and child care while continuing to balance the budget throughout the fiscal plan.
Infrastructure projects in the Capital Plan represent over $9 billion worth of work going on in communities across B.C. We will build bridges, highways, hospitals, schools, child care centres. This is an economic investment in growing decent paying jobs and building infrastructure neglected by the BC Liberals over 16 long years.
I look forward to meeting with residents from Surrey and across British Columbia to hear their thoughts on the work our government is doing to make life more affordable for our citizens and improve the services they count on.
I’m so proud of what we have been able to accomplish for British Columbians in just eight short months and now with Budget 2018, British Columbians have so much more to look forward to.
We have only just begun!