AS the one-year anniversary approaches of the NDP’s majority mandate, Premier John Horgan and the B.C. government said on Wednesday they are delivering on commitments to build a stronger B.C. for everyone.
From supporting people with the BC Recovery Benefit to the largest ICBC rate savings ever, the government has already made a difference in people’s lives during the pandemic and beyond.
“It’s an understatement to say people have been through a lot over the past year. Even as the future feels uncertain for many, I want British Columbians to know: we will always keep working for you,” Horgan said. “We’re going to keep delivering real progress on helping families with the cost of living, improving the services people need and supporting people to build a secure future.”
The government said it has taken historic steps to keep people healthy and safe through the global pandemic by:
- helping more than 2.7 million British Columbians with the BC Recovery Benefit that provided up to $1,000 for families and single parents, and up to $500 for individuals;
- getting British Columbians vaccinated in the largest immunization plan in B.C.’s history, with approximately 90% of eligible people receiving at least one dose;
- keeping people safe during the pandemic with $900 million in new funding for testing, contact tracing and personal protective equipment; and
- embarking on permanent paid sick leave for all, with British Columbians currently having their say on shaping the plan to ensure people do not have to choose between going to work sick or losing wages.
The government said that providing better care for people in their communities is critical to building a stronger, healthier province. Progress to date includes:
- delivering more urgent and primary care centres and additional primary care networks throughout B.C., making it easier and faster to see a doctor, nurse or other health-care professional at 24 centres in communities around B.C., with more coming soon;
- building, modernizing and expanding hospitals throughout the province, including Surrey, Richmond, Vancouver, Dawson Creek, Stuart Lake and the Cowichan Valley;
- reducing wait times by optimizing surgical and diagnostic space and teams, and adding additional MRI scanners where they are needed most, so B.C. can keep pace with the demand for new surgeries and diagnostic scans;
- funding levelled-up wages for workers in long-term care and assisted living; and
- accelerating B.C.’s response to the opioid crisis across the full continuum of care: prevention, harm reduction, safe prescription medications, treatment and recovery.
On top of scrapping bridge tolls and removing Medical Services Plan premiums that made life unaffordable, the government said it has acted this year to help families make ends meet by:
- delivering the biggest ICBC rate reduction in history, saving B.C. drivers an average of $400 and providing significantly better care for people injured in a crash, while providing hundreds of dollars in rebates to ensure ICBC savings go back into the pockets of British Columbians;
- saving families up to $672 a year per child with free public transit for kids 12 and younger;
- building 9,000 new homes people can afford through Budget 2021, as part of the government’s 10-year Homes for B.C. plan;
- protecting renters by freezing rent increases until the end of 2021 and limiting future increases to the rate of inflation, while eliminating illegal renovictions;
- helping those who are struggling most by delivering the largest-ever permanent increase to income assistance and disability assistance rates, and a 53% increase to income assistance since 2017;
- helping 80,000 low-income seniors by increasing the Senior’s Supplement for the first time; and
- making it easier to find affordable, quality child care through the 10-year Childcare BC plan by doubling the number of $10-a-day child care spaces, giving early childhood educators a well-deserved raise and continuing to build and expand spaces.
The government said it is creating more good jobs for British Columbians in a clean energy future by:
- creating more than 85,000 jobs and strengthening communities around B.C. with record infrastructure investments;
- launching a long-overdue review to eliminate outdated, inefficient fossil fuel subsidies and modernizing the royalty system so it can help reduce emissions and deliver a fair return for British Columbians;
- working with BC Hydro to make it easier and more affordable for British Columbians to switch from fossil fuels to clean electricity;
- bringing together innovators, industry, government and experts to help fight the climate crisis through B.C.’s new Centre for Innovation and Clean Energy;
- supporting B.C. shipyards to build capacity and become increasingly competitive with investments to support more shipbuilding, refit, repair and maintenance in B.C.; and
- setting sectoral targets to guide the reduction of carbon pollution, keeping government accountable as it works with each sector of the economy to lower emissions while remaining globally competitive as part of North America’s most ambitious climate plan, CleanBC.
The government pointed out that after becoming the first province to enshrine the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in law in 2019, B.C. is continuing to move forward on the path of reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples by:
- actively supporting First Nations to develop and implement their own strategies to facilitate truth telling, healing and justice for survivors, intergenerational survivors and communities as caretaker communities lead investigations at former Indian Residential Schools and Indian Hospitals in B.C.;
- delivering, in collaboration with Indigenous partners, the action plan required under the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act to build strong relationships based on recognition and implementation of the inherent rights of Indigenous Peoples protected in Canada’s constitution;
- extending support for cultural preservation and revitalization by funding key projects designed to preserve and respect Indigenous cultures, including the retention and revitalization of First Nations languages;
- moving further toward long-term agreements that provide greater self-determination, including recent shared prosperity agreements with the Tahltan Nation and working together in partnership with the Upper Nicola Band to invest in a world-leading clean fuels plant; and
- supporting the demolition of a former residential school and construction of a new community centre in Lower Post through partnerships with the Daylu Dena Council, Liard First Nation, Taku River Tlingit First Nation, the Tahltan people, the Kaska people, and the federal government.
“Working together, we’ve made a real positive difference in people’s lives, but there is still much more to do,” Horgan said. “We’re going to keep doing our level best every day to build a stronger province for everyone – not just those at the top.”