[PARKSVILLE] – This week’s Speech from the Throne is a unique moment in history – not only for British Columbia, but also for Vancouver Island according to Parksville-Qualicum MLA Michelle Stilwell.
It reflects both the priorities British Columbians articulated in the recent election, and the ability to invest in programs and services that British Columbians depend on like never before, thanks to 16 years of sound fiscal management and building Canada’s leading economy. It also presents an opportunity to bridge the gap between rural and urban British Columbia and recognize that one region cannot succeed without the other as we build a stronger province.
“Our government is able to invest in our growing workforce because of British Columbia’s strong economy,” said Stilwell. “The Low Income Families in Transition pilot program expands on the success of the Single Parent Employment Initiative, providing low-income single parents with better employment opportunities if they take time away from work to improve their skills.”
Delivered in the legislature by Lieutenant-Governor Judith Guichon, the speech will be debated before members vote in what is expected to be a test of confidence of the recently re-elected government.
The Speech from the Throne outlines a bold vision, one that reflects the priorities British Columbians articulated in May: a balance between economic growth and job creation, investments in social programs, and environmental action. It outlines initiatives that will make a positive difference for British Columbia families.
Reforming our Institutions
- A comprehensive ban on corporate, union, and third party donations, including in kind, to political parties
- Improve a maximum donation limit for individuals to political parties
- A referendum on electoral reform
- Strengthen lobbyist legislation and regulations
Childcare and Early Childhood Education
- An immediate $1 billion investment over the next four years – the largest in BC history – to create 60,000 new spaces over the next four years
- Cover an additional 150,000 children with full or partial childcare subsidies
- Increase the number of early childhood educators
- Explore partnerships with school districts to co-locate new child care spaces at elementary schools
Fairer, Healthier Society
- A new province-wide Poverty Reduction Strategy, with a particular focus on children
- A $100/month increase to social assistance rates, with a process to recommend future annual increases
- A plan to expand and build on the proven success of the Single Parent Employment Initiative
- Basic income support for youth aged 18 to 24 transitioning out of care
- A commitment to fully implement Grand Chief Ed John’s recommendations in the Report on Indigenous Child Welfare
- Increase legal aid funding by 25% ensuring families can better access and navigate our legal system
- Increase the number of RCMP officers dedicated to drug enforcement by 30%
- Create a new Minister of State for Mental Health, Addiction and Recovery
- Build a new Centre for Mental Health and Addictions in Surrey
- Work to accelerate immediate access to MRIs, hip and knee operations
- Increase access to family doctors by training 112 more General Practitioners, bringing the total to 400
- 500 more residential care beds to support our seniors
- Ensure clear, measurable daily care hour standards are in place, monitored and enforced
- Double the Home Renovation Tax Credit and create a new Respite Tax Credit to help families who care for their ageing loved ones
- Work to eliminate MSP for B.C. families
- For the first time in 30 years, establish a Royal Commission on Education to ensure the next generation of students and educators both have the resources, training and tools they need.
- Increase accessibility requirements on new construction and in the design of public spaces
- Increase the minimum number of suites in mult-unit residential buildings designed with basic accessibility features
Communities and Transit
- Immediate action to expand public transit in Metro Vancouver, including the Broadway corridor and in Surrey
- End the referendum requirement for new transit revenue sources
- Work with our neighbours in Washington State on high-speed rail between Vancouver and Seattle
- Work to build light rail on southern Vancouver Island and a passenger ferry connection between Vancouver and Nanaimo
- Conduct feasibility studies to connect lower mainland and North Shore communities by transit and light rail
- Convene an all-party committee on ride sharing
- Eliminate tolls on the Port Mann Bridge , work with TransLink to eliminate tolls on the Golden Ears Bridges and expedite the replacement of the Patullo Bridge
- Fully fund adult basic education and ESL programs to help new British Columbians adapt and integrate
- Double BC Arts Council funding to build capacity to lead in the new economy
- Work with local governments and the private sector to increase supply, particularly along transit lines and corridors while supporting municipalities to eliminate backlogs and speed up construction
- Build 50,000 new units over 10 years as part of a new Rent-to-Own program for the middle class
- Protect renters rights by prohibiting landlords from skirting rent control protections and ensuring tenants are respected when landlords make improvements to their buildings.
- Host a Housing Summit to be convened in Fall 2017 with all levels of government and stakeholders. Real estate speculation will be one of the challenges put before participants.
- Doubling the Rural Economic Dividend to ensure small communities see the benefits of the wealth they create, and are able to diversify their economies
- Work to open eight new mines by 2022, and invest $18 million to improve mine permitting, oversight, compliance and enforcement
- Double the Grow Local program and make it permanent
- Ensure food security and protect agricultural land by doubling the Grow Local program and bringing an additional 91,000 hectares of agricultural land into production by 2020
Environment and Innovation
- Move forward with Site C to transition our economy away from carbon and help reach an ambitious emissions-free target for all new non-commercial vehicles in Metro Vancouver by 2035
- Raise the carbon tax by $5 per tonne starting in 2019, up to a total of $50 per tonne by 2022
- For all future carbon tax increases, the PST will be reduced by a corresponding amount
- A $50 million expansion of electric vehicle charging infrastructure throughout BC
- $50 million more for BC Parks and double the amount of conservation officers