Spring session focused on affordability, strengthening economy

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For a summary of legislation introduced this spring, visit: https://workingforyou.gov.bc.ca/legislation/

Making life better and more affordable for British Columbians, while building a strong economy, was at the core of government work inside and outside the Parliament Buildings this spring.

“Our government is continuing to make choices that put people first, every single day,” said Premier John Horgan as the house rose for the end of session. “We’ve been tackling the housing crisis, providing more affordable child care, and making sure quality public services like health care and education are available in every community, and it’s starting to yield results for people.”

Making life more affordable for people remained a key focus in the spring session. Government passed legislation that included the final steps in eliminating MSP fees, eliminated interest on B.C. student loans, extended the ferry fare freeze and discounts, and lowered or eliminated Fair Pharmacare deductibles for 240,000 families in B.C. The new Child Opportunity Benefit, introduced in Budget 2019, will soon save families up to $1,600 per year for one child, $2,600 per year for two children and as much as $3,400 per year for three children. Parents are already saving up to $15,000 per child, per year, through the Affordable Child Care Benefit, introduced in 2018. The Province has also funded more than 4,900 new licensed child care spaces, with more coming.

The Province continued to tackle the housing crisis in B.C. by increasing supply, curbing demand and cracking down on fraud in real estate. Government is working quickly to build affordable housing around the province, with 20,000 new homes completed or underway in nearly 80 communities and a planned total of 114,000 homes built over 10 years. This includes 1,750 affordable housing units to support Indigenous peoples, including provincially funded housing on-reserve for the first time in Canada. To help renters, government lowered the annual allowable rent increase, established a provincewide rent bank and will phase in other recommendations by the Rental Housing Task Force to protect and enforce the rights of renters.

When an independent report by the Expert Panel on Money Laundering in Real Estate revealed more than $7 billion in dirty money was laundered in B.C. in 2018, government launched a public inquiry to examine the full scope and effects of money laundering in B.C. The inquiry will help government identify better protections to shut out money laundering and keep the economy strong and working for people, not organized crime.

Government continues to invest in people by improving the services they count on. To make schools safer and to improve learning environments, government is creating 5,500 new student spaces, 51 new playgrounds and is hiring more than 4,000 new teachers. To keep people and goods moving, government restored ferry service on 2,700 round trips that were cut in 2014 and began major infrastructure projects that include reducing congestion in the Lower Mainland as well as cutting commute times in Victoria.

To provide better, faster health care to people around the province, government is spending $1.3 billion over three years for more doctors, nurses, hospitals and primary care centres. Increased access to diagnostics has already resulted in 44,000 more MRIs this year than last. Seniors are getting better care through the investment of $5.3 million to increase staffing levels. To create opportunities for new drug listings and boost existing coverage for patients, government announced earlier this week that B.C. will be the first province in the country to expand the use of biosimilar medications.

Government continued to advance reconciliation with a historic new revenue-sharing agreement between B.C. and First Nations that will support self-government and self-determination, strong, healthy communities and services that make life better for families. Under the new agreement, First Nations communities around the province will share in almost $3 billion in new funding projected over the next 25 years to invest in the services they decide their communities need to thrive and prosper.

Government is working collaboratively to build a strong, sustainable economy that works for everyone – and it’s yielding results with B.C. leading the country in economic growth. B.C. has the lowest unemployment rate in Canada, with employment growth well above the national average. The Province has also eliminated the operating debt for the first time in 40 years and B.C. is the only province rated triple-A with all three international credit rating agencies.

This spring session, the first legislative steps were made to put B.C. on the path to a cleaner, brighter future, through the CleanBC climate plan. The Zero Emission Vehicles Act requires all new light-duty vehicles to be zero-emission vehicles by 2040. This target will be met using a phased-in approach, with 10% of new light-duty vehicle sales by 2025, 30% by 2030 and 100% by 2040. Government continues to offer consumer incentives for purchasing electric vehicles.

To restore balance to B.C.’s labour laws and make workplaces safer, government made amendments to the Employment Standards Act, which will raise the working age for children, make sure people are paid the wages they are owed and provides job protection for people dealing with domestic or sexual violence, or caring for the critically ill.

Investing in rural and northern communities remained a government priority this session. Government passed the final fiscal elements for natural gas development in B.C., which will secure thousands of good-paying jobs for the LNG Canada project, which meets government’s four conditions for natural resource projects. To help northwest communities build long-needed infrastructure, government gave a $100-million grant to four regional districts and their 22 municipalities. New forestry revitalization and renewal initiatives will develop a competitive, sustainable future for forest companies, workers and the communities that depend on it.

“We know that a truly prosperous economy is one that works for everyone,” Premier Horgan said. “We’re going to keep working collaboratively to build a strong, sustainable, low-carbon economy that creates opportunities now, while meeting the challenges of tomorrow.”

The Confidence and Supply Agreement with the BC Green caucus continues to provide the basis for a strong, stable government for British Columbia. Important progress has been made on areas of shared priority, including action on climate, fixing the housing crisis, restoring wild salmon populations and supporting B.C.’s tech and innovation economy.