By John Horgan
The beginning of a new year is a time to look forward to all the opportunities that lie ahead, while taking stock of the accomplishments and challenges from the past year. We resolve to do better. And we set new goals.
This year we had many successes.
Our government took strong steps to tackle the housing crisis and deliver affordable housing for people around the province. 4,900 new affordable mixed income rental homes, the first of 14,000, are now on their way for middle-income families in 42 communities throughout B.C.
We listened to renters and are cutting the annual allowable rent increase by 2%. And we’re working to moderate the market while increasing supply, curbing demand and tackling fraud in B.C.’s real estate market.
To help people experiencing homelessness, we are building more than 2000 modular homes, with 24/7 support services, in 22 communities. So far, 600 modular homes have been built in four B.C. communities, helping people get out of tent cities, off the street and on the path to opportunity.
To care for kids and help parents with child care costs, we delivered a fee reduction for parents of up to $350 per month for eligible child care spaces. Approximately 52,000 spaces have been approved for a fee reduction so far, and the initiative has put almost $63 million back in parents’ pockets.
Earlier this year, we also introduced the Affordable Child Care Benefit, which is available to families with a yearly income of up to $111,000, and can save families up to $15,000 per year, per child. And in November, our government launched 53 prototype projects to deliver child care that will cost families a maximum of $200 per month, per child.
To make life more affordable for people, we reduced MSP fees by 50% and will be eliminating them by 2020 – one of the biggest middle-class tax cuts in B.C. history. This will put up to $1,800 a year back into families’ pockets.
We’ve also invested in health care across the board, including building, renovating and expanding hospitals, improving seniors’ care and expanding diagnostic and treatment options for B.C. patients.
To help students and teachers, we have hired 3,700 new teachers, including 390 special education teachers and 140 more teacher psychologists and counsellors. School districts have also hired 1,000 new education assistants. And we’ve invested close to $1 billion into new schools, expansions, seismic upgrades and property purchases – the largest capital investment in B.C. history.
To make sure British Columbia has a cleaner, brighter future, we introduced the CleanBC climate action plan this fall. The plan will put us on the path to reducing our province’s greenhouse gas emissions by 40% by the year 2030, based on 2007 levels, while investing in a strong, sustainable, low-carbon economy.
At the heart of all this work is a fundamental commitment to reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples, guided by the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) and the Calls to Action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
In partnership with First Nations communities, we are building and operating 1,750 new units of social housing both on and off reserve in Indigenous communities. This makes B.C. the first province in Canada to fund on-reserve housing.
And, as part of budget 2019, B.C. First Nations will share in provincial gaming revenue to invest in the services and infrastructure healthy communities need – child care, supports for new mothers, housing, road upgrades and economic development to create a better future for everyone in B.C.
This year brought challenges as well. We are facing an unprecedented opioid crisis that we must continue addressing, by expanding harm reduction, increasing access to naloxone and connecting people to life-saving supports, including treatment and recovery.
And we are still recovering from last year’s devastating wildfires and floods. We have implemented a comprehensive wildfire recovery program of nearly $280 million and are working closely with other agencies and Indigenous communities around the province to make sure we are prepared for next year.
The problems facing B.C. families didn’t appear overnight, and they won’t be fixed overnight.
Our government will continue to invest in people, work to build a strong, sustainable, economy, deliver the services people count on and make life better and more affordable for everyone in B.C.
This is only the beginning. We’re going to keep working hard for you, putting people first and building a better future, together.