VICTORIA – Premier John Horgan and the New Democrat government have been working hard for people. After 16 years of a B.C. Liberal government that only cared about their wealthy friends and supporters, it’s going to take time to fix the problems they created. But the New Democrat government is taking strong first steps to make life better for British Columbians.
In just 100 days, Premier John Horgan and the B.C. New Democrat government have already delivered on many key campaign commitments:
Making life more affordable
For 16 years, the B.C. Liberal government was only looking out for their wealthy friends, while everyone else was left to fend for themselves and the most vulnerable suffered. On its second day in power, the New Democrat government kept its promise to increase income and disability assistance rates by $100 per month.
The New Democrat government kept another of its commitments towards reducing poverty in B.C. by announcing that as of October 1, 2017, people on income assistance will be able to earn an additional $200 a month without any impact on their payment. For those on disability assistance, the annual earnings exemption will increase by $2,400 a year.
The B.C. Liberal government implemented tolls on the Port Mann and Golden Ears bridges, unfairly burdening people who have no other option than to drive to work with the costs of these projects. As John Horgan promised it would be, crossing the Port Mann and Golden Ears bridges is now free, a move that will save drivers as much as $1,500 per year and commercial truck drivers $4,500 a year.
Premier John Horgan wants to make it easier for all British Columbians to get ahead. The B.C. New Democrat government has kept its commitment to eliminate fees for Adult Basic Education and ELL. This will remove financial roadblocks for those upgrading their education, and is an important step towards investing in an economy that works for everyone.
Premier John Horgan wants children who leave care to thrive, not just survive. The B.C. New Democrat government kept its promise to expand free tuition for former kids in care, by announcing they now will have access to free tuition at all 25 of British Columbia’s public post-secondary institutions.
The B.C. Liberal government doubled MSP fees that hard-working British Columbians pay, costing most families an extra $900 a year. In stark contrast, the New Democrat government decreased MSP premiums by 50 per cent, a first step toward eliminating the unfair tax outright.
The B.C. Liberal government refused to allow our independent energy watchdog to examine the Site C project. Instead, the B.C. Liberals just wanted to “get it past the point of no return,” regardless of the financial impact on people. As promised, the New Democrat government sent the project to the B.C. Utility Commission for a review so that the best-informed decisions are made in the interests of B.C. families.
Under the BC Liberals landlords were allowed to exploit the “fixed-term lease” loophole to unfairly evicts tenants and dodge controls on rent increases. The New Democrat government has kept its promise to end this unfair practice by introducing legislation to close the “fixed term lease” loophole once and for all.
Taking steps toward affordable and quality child care
Under the B.C. Liberal government’s watch, child care became less and less accessible, and more and more expensive – forcing some parents to make tough decisions about their careers. As promised, Premier Horgan and the New Democrat government is working with parents and experts to develop and implement a long-term plan that will make quality, accessible, affordable child care a reality for families in our province. They have taken critical first steps towards this, including establishing a Minister of State for Childcare, increasing funding this year to support the creation of 4,000 new child care spaces, and appointing five new members to the Provincial Child Care Council who will provide valuable input into the overall implementation details for B.C.’s universal child care plan.
Under the B.C. Liberals the affordable housing crisis grew out of control. As a first step toward building the thousands of housing units desperately needed across B.C., the New Democrat government has added $208 million for the construction of over 1,700 new units of affordable rental housing, $291 million to support the construction of 2,000 modular housing units for people who are homeless and more than $170 million over three years to provide 24/7 staffing and support services.
The B.C. Liberals almost ran the public insurer into the ground, taking millions out of its coffers in dividends and increasing ICBC premiums year after year. The B.C. New Democrat government kept its promise to stop the B.C. Liberal’s planned 42 per cent increase in ICBC rates, by limiting increases to a 6.4 per cent basic-rate increase this year, while embarking on a multi-year plan to fix the B.C. Liberals’ ICBC financial crisis.
The New Democrat government has kept its promise to restore the B.C. Disability Bus Pass Program by announcing the restoration of the annual pass beginning Jan. 1, 2018. The restored program brings back the annual pass for those who want it, and goes a step further by providing a transportation supplement for everyone.
Owning the Waneta Dam and generating station is expected to help keep hydro rates affordable for British Columbians, and will support local jobs for many years.
Good jobs, across the province
Following through on its commitment to invest in infrastructure, creating thousands of construction jobs building the schools, hospitals, roads and transit people depend on, the New Democrat government’s balanced budget for 2017-18 includes record levels of capital spending. This investment will support tens of thousands of good, family-supporting jobs in every corner of the province.
Years of B.C. Liberal government neglect made it harder and harder to get into trades training. As part of its commitment to expand B.C.’s apprenticeship and trades training programs, the B.C. New Democrat government is creating 562 additional seats at 13 public post-secondary institutions throughout British Columbia that offer foundation and apprenticeship programs. These new seats will help ensure that B.C. workers have the skills they need for good jobs in the growing economy.
Increasing the minimum wage
The B.C. New Democrat government supported B.C.’s lowest-waged workers by increasing the hourly minimum wage by $.50 an hour. The government has also launched the Fair Wages Commission, which will provide recommendations on how to get B.C. to a $15-an-hour minimum wage with regular, measured and predictable increases that businesses can absorb.
Restoring the tax benefit and lifting the cap on lending for credit unions
In another commitment kept, the B.C. government has restored the tax benefit for credit unions and reduced the amount of capital a British Columbia-incorporated credit union must hold in relation to commercial loans and leases, so they won’t be as restricted as lenders when trying to support B.C. businesses.
Reducing the small business corporate income tax rate from 2.5% to 2%
The B.C. government is supporting small business with a half-point cut to the small business tax rate. This will go a long way toward job stability and creation across the province. The government is also establishing a Small Business Task Force to help strengthen and grow the sector in B.C..
Providing a boost to rural economies
As part of its commitment to support rural communities, the B.C. New Democrat government is distributing over $528,000 in project development grants to help rural communities develop strong, stable economies and create long-term local employment, $282,000 in grants to help local governments plan, design and manage sustainable infrastructure, and to help meet the requirements to apply for significant capital infrastructure funding in their communities, and more than $10.1 million to 90 eligible local governments, First Nations and not-for-profit organizations under the BC Rural Dividend program.
Investing in our tourism sector
Following through on a promise to champion tourism, people who live and work in resort municipalities will benefit from a $10.5 million investment by the B.C. New Democrat government in improved infrastructure, resulting in increased private investment and a more diversified economy.
The B.C. New Democrat government kept its promise to bring back an enhanced Buy BC marketing program, by introducing Buy BC, Feed BC and Grow BC, a three-pronged approach to build opportunities and sales for B.C. food producers, and those wishing to join the sector.
Investing in Indigenous skills training
As part of its commitment to create jobs and opportunities for First Nations in British Columbia, the B.C. New Democrat government announced $300,000 for the Prince George Nechako Aboriginal Employment and Training Association (PGNAETA) to train up to 44 participants from area First Nations in driver education and foundational trades-training programs, as well as a $390,000 investment to the Nicola Valley Institute of Technology in partnership with the PGNAETA for an Environmental Technology Access program to help participants build skills and explore careers in environmental stewardship and natural resource development.
Investing in literacy skills
The New Democrat government also announced an investment in adult literacy programs in the Prince George, Burnaby, Okanagan and Columbia Shuswap, central Interior, the Northwest and Surrey as part of its commitment to connect British Columbians with the education and training they need to thrive and succeed.
Fighting for B.C. forestry jobs
Keeping the commitment to fight for B.C. forestry jobs in the U.S., Premier Horgan travelled to Ottawa and Washington, D.C. in his first week in office, and more recently British Columbia’s Trade Envoy to the United States travelled to Portland, Oregon to advance B.C.’s interests in the ongoing softwood lumber dispute.
Investing in key services
As a first step to undo 16 years of B.C. Liberal government neglect, the B.C. New Democrat government increased funding by $681 million for our kindergarten-to-Grade 12 education system over three years. This includes $521 million for up to 3,500 new teaching positions to improve classroom supports for children, $160 million for enrolment growth and other pressures, and $50 million in capital funding to provide the resources needed to help all children succeed.
The New Democrat government has increased funding by $6 million annually for the B.C. Healthy Kids Program, bringing the current investment in the program to almost $30 million a year.
In keeping with the promise to ensure the UBC Therapeutics Initiative has the resources it needs to do its job effectively – keeping drug costs down and patients safe – the B.C. New Democrat government is providing funding of $2 million annually for the program.
Taking action on the overdose crisis
Following through on his commitment to voters, Premier Horgan created a new stand-alone Ministry for Mental Health and Addictions. The first priority of this new ministry is to save lives immediately in the face of the overdose crisis. The September 2017 Budget Update provided $322 million to this new ministry for an immediate and evidence-based response to the fentanyl emergency, and in October the B.C. government is launching a community crisis fund and scaling up rapid access to addiction treatment as part of a province-wide plan to stem the overdose emergency and help save lives.
Restoring balance and improving service at the Residential Tenancy Branch
Keeping the promise to provide the necessary resources for the Residential Tenancy Branch to do its job and resolve disputes fairly and in a timely way, the New Democrat government has increased funding for the Residential Tenancy Branch by $7 million over three years to ensure renters are treated fairly in this province and that the rights and responsibilities of both renters and landlords are clearly understood. The province has also launched a new online application to file for dispute resolution which will make it easier and faster for B.C. tenants and landlords to resolve tenancy issues.
Accelerating the school seismic upgrade program
The B.C. government has taken first steps toward its commitment to accelerate the seismic upgrade program for B.C., by announcing the completion of upgrades at Fairview Elementary and Westview Secondary in Maple Ridge, the replacement of Sir Matthew Begbie and Bayview elementary schools in Vancouver, and an upgrade to Gibson Elementary in the Delta School District. The B.C. government has committed $522 million over three years for seismic upgrades throughout B.C., making schools safer for our kids should an earthquake happen during school hours.
As a first step towards the commitment to increase access to justice in B.C., the New Democrat government has shortlisted three proponent teams for the building of new law courts in Abbotsford to keep pace with growth in the lower Fraser Valley. The project is estimated to create over 1,000 jobs during the course of construction, and once built, will double the capacity of the current courthouse.
In keeping with the commitment to implement the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s 97 Calls to Action by reducing the number of Aboriginal children in care and ensuring quality and safe care for those who do enter, the New Democrat government announced $6.4 million for B.C. First Nations and Métis-serving agencies to help keep Indigenous families together and improve outcomes for children and youth in care.
Following through on its commitment to take action to make our health care system work for British Columbians, with care when it’s needed, where it’s needed, the New Democrat government is investing $603 million more over three years to improve health services for British Columbians.
The previous B.C. Liberal government cancelled the program to replace and upgrade school playgrounds, forcing parents to spend years fundraising so that their kids had a safe place to play. Keeping New Democrats’ promise to create an ongoing capital fund for school playgrounds, Education Minister Rob Fleming announced that the province is in the planning stages to introduce this fund in the next fiscal year.
A better B.C.
Premier John Horgan made implementing the 97 Calls to Action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People a cross-government priority in his ministers’ mandate letters. The Premier and cabinet ministers also signed a B.C. Indigenous Justice Strategy Memorandum of Understanding, which will focus on reconciliation with Indigenous peoples, decreasing the overrepresentation of Indigenous peoples in the justice system, addressing violence against Indigenous peoples – especially women and girls – improving access to justice and justice services for Indigenous peoples, and designing services for Indigenous peoples that are culturally relevant and appropriate.
Under the B.C. Liberal government, B.C. was the only province without a Human Rights Commission, and British Columbians deserve better. That’s why John Horgan and the New Democrat government announced the re-establishment of a human rights commission to fight inequality and discrimination in all its forms.
Ending the grizzly bear trophy hunt
Following through on a key campaign promise, Premier John Horgan and the New Democrat government brought an end to the grizzly bear trophy hunt, effective Nov. 30, 2017. The government is also accepting all 10 recommendations in the auditor general’s report on the management of grizzly bear populations, and will develop a provincial grizzly bear management plan with clear objectives, roles, responsibilities and accountabilities.
As part of its promise to recognize British Columbians’ right to clean and safe drinking water, the B.C. New Democrat government announced a new review of the Hullcar Aquifer to ensure agricultural practices are consistent with ensuring safe drinking water.
New Democrats said they would use every tool in the toolbox to protect our economy, environment and thousands of existing jobs, from the Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion project. The B.C. government secured Thomas Berger as external legal counsel, and was granted intervener status by the Federal Court of Appeal, ensuring that B.C.’s interests will be presented to the court.
The B.C. New Democrat government has kept another of its promises by investing $500,000 from civil forfeiture grants into anti-gang programming for youth in Surrey, and went a step further by making that annual funding permanent. The funding will support the Surrey Wraparound (Wrap) program and eliminate the program’s current waitlist.
The B.C. government will act to reduce carbon emissions by increasing the carbon tax rate on April 1, 2018, by $5 per tonne of CO2 equivalent emissions, while increasing the climate action tax credit to support low and middle-income families. Carbon tax revenues will be used to provide rebate cheques for families, and to invest in climate change solutions that create jobs, benefit communities and reduce climate pollution.
Fulfilling a major campaign promise, the B.C. government has introduced legislation to put an end to big money in B.C. politics and put people back at the heart of government decision-making. Reforming campaign finance rules will make sure government’s actions and decisions benefit everyone, not just those with deep pockets.
Supporting people and businesses affected by the wildfires
Immediately following the swearing-in of the new government, Premier John Horgan and the new B.C. government made addressing the wildfires and supporting people and businesses affected by them the most urgent priority. In addition to providing ongoing financial support for people forced to evacuate their communities, the B.C. government provided $1,500 grants to help businesses resume operations, $200,000 each to the Thompson-Okanagan Tourism Association (TOTA) and the Kootenay Rockies Tourism Association to help with tourism-related impacts from the B.C. wildfires, $6.2 million to repair and replace 500 kilometres of livestock fencing, and has partnered with the federal government to provide $20 million for B.C. ranchers and farmers to help rebuild their livelihoods.
The B.C. Liberals tried to push through a 10-lane bridge project despite opposition from all but one lower mainland mayor. The New Democrat government is proceeding with an independent and technical review of the George Massey Tunnel corridor to find a solution that gets people and goods moving and makes sense for commuters across the region.
Ensuring that British Columbians are not on the hook for the cleanup of a potential spill, transporters of liquid petroleum products in British Columbia now will need to have provincial plans in place to manage a spill. The new regulations requiring spill preparedness apply to pipelines, as well as rail and trucking operations transporting over 10,000 litres. The regulations extend liability for full cost of response and recovery to a combination of both the owner as well as the transporter of the substance.
Protecting B.C.’s Wildlife
Keeping its promise to give wildlife and habitat priority, the New Democrat government banned motor vehicles for the purpose of licensed hunting within the area of the Elephant Hill fire in the Thompson Region, the Chilcotin Plateau and Hanceville-Riske Creek area, and banned moose hunting from two areas of the Cariboo Region that were severely impacted by wildfires. These measures were a first step to mitigate wildlife vulnerability to hunters as a result of increased access and sight lines following the burning of major tracts of forest this past summer.
The Government of British Columbia is following through on its commitment to take action to modernize democratic institutions and make government work for people, with the introduction of two bills: legislation to allow a referendum on electoral reform before the end of November 2018, and legislation to amend the Constitution Act to reduce the number of seats required for recognized political party status from four to two; to change the fixed date election to a Saturday in October; and to strengthen the institutional stability of government in the event, for example, of a natural disaster.
The B.C. Liberals gutted our environmental assessment processes, leading to risky decisions, creating delays for business and undermining public confidence in new projects. Keeping its promise to update our environmental assessment legislation and processes, the B.C. New Democrat government is conducting a review of the Province’s professional reliance model to ensure the highest professional, technical and ethical standards are being applied to resource management in B.C..
In another step towards its commitment to strengthen our democratic institutions, the New Democrat government has introduced legislation to toughen the rules around political lobbying, which is expected to help protect the integrity of public decision making.
The B.C. Liberal government sat and did nothing on the issue of ride-sharing for years. The New Democrat government is taking action toward bringing ride-sharing to B.C. by hiring an expert to consult with stakeholders and develop a made-in-B.C. solution. This consultation will ensure that government keeps its promise to ensure customers get timely, safe, quality service in a way that welcomes technology, supports ride-sharing, respects the people currently in the industry and doesn’t give one group of drivers an unfair advantage over another.
In keeping with Premier Horgan’s commitment to work with all parties, the Office of Legislative Counsel (OLC) will provide political parties with confidential house amendment drafting services on a trial basis. This change brings B.C. in line with Ontario, Manitoba and Nova Scotia, and puts people and ideas at the centre of the legislative process.
In an important step towards its commitment to bring in cannabis regulations that keep British Columbians safe, the New Democrat government formed a joint provincial-local government committee that will consider policies related to cannabis legalization and regulation in B.C.. The committee will focus on protecting young people, health and safety, keeping the criminal element out of cannabis and keeping our roads safe.
The B.C. Liberal government wasted tax payer dollars developing a climate action plan, then ignored their recommendations and instead adopted a plan written by their friends in the petroleum industry. In keeping with its promise to implement a comprehensive climate action plan that provides a pathway for B.C. to prosper economically while significantly reducing our carbon pollution and protecting B.C. families’ budgets, the New Democrat government appointed a new advisory council to provide strategic advice to government on areas of focus for climate action that go hand in hand with economic growth.
In the Budget Update, the New Democrat government followed through on its promise to reverse the B.C. Liberal’s tax cut to the wealthiest in the province. New Democrats believe those at the very top can afford to give a little more, and this move will generate revenue of $250 million each year which will support the social programs that we all rely upon.