As our province grows, so does the need for more services. And as British Columbians create new jobs and economic growth, we must share that success by shaping a future that improves services for those in need.
Child poverty has been reduced by 50 per cent since 2001, but more needs to be done.
A new Poverty Reduction Strategy, with a particular focus on children, will be implemented province-wide.
In addition to disability rate increases provided for in previous budgets, Budget 2017 will be amended to increase social assistance rates by $100 per month, with a process to recommend future annual increases.
We must also strengthen investments in people who want to transition from social assistance into the workforce.
Your government will expand the Single Parent Employment Initiative to broaden supports for single parents who can only find part-time work, or who are under-employed, and want to find full time employment.
Reducing poverty includes supporting children in care. Your government will introduce a basic income support for youth aged 18 to 24 who are transitioning out of care, and will provide free post-secondary tuition for all children in care.
Your government will also fully implement the recommendations in the Report on Indigenous Child Welfare from Special Advisor Grand Chief Ed John. In particular, your government will focus on:
- increasing early intervention and prevention services to keep families together;
- creating a more equitable funding formula for child welfare; and
- reunification and permanency planning.
Your government will increase legal aid funding by 25 per cent, ensuring British Columbia families can better access and navigate our legal system.
Mental Health and Addictions
The opioid crisis is devastating families. British Columbia is leading North America in our response. However, despite the heroic efforts of first responders and policy makers at all levels of government, this battle continues.
Your government will redouble its efforts by increasing investments and embracing innovative treatments to save lives. Recovery from addiction is possible, and a coordinated system of care can help those ready to start their life-saving journey.
Harm reduction services and recovery oriented systems of care must work seamlessly together. Your government will continue to provide opioid substitute therapies and recovery services, and renew efforts on drug education and prevention.
The federal government must also strengthen its commitment to this crisis, starting with increasing the number of RCMP officers dedicated to drug enforcement by 30 per cent. Those who are trafficking fentanyl and other illicit drugs must be held accountable for their actions.
With the federal government’s legalization of cannabis comes new revenue for the province. Your government commits to dedicating every dollar from the sale of cannabis to drug education, prevention, enforcement and treatment for those who are addicted to opioids and other drugs.
To ensure these initiatives are coordinated, a Minister of State for Mental Health, Addiction and Recovery will be appointed to be a strong voice at the cabinet table, with a mandate to increase investments in future budgets and establish a single point of entry for those seeking help.
In addition, an Expert Panel on Mental Health will review how services are currently deployed and recommend ways to close gaps in service delivery that sometimes make it difficult to access care.
Your government will expand the successful province-wide Foundry program – a single point of entry for young people who are experiencing mental health issues.
We know that mental health issues are often identified at school when there are experts available to recognize them. Your government will ensure all schools across the province have one person trained to identify mental health issues and refer those in need to resources.
Finally, a new Centre for Mental Health and Addictions in Surrey will be fast-tracked to get it up and running as quickly as possible, to provide better access to care for B.C. families.
This will be part of an overall health strategy for Surrey, including the planning for a new hospital.
British Columbians are the healthiest people in Canada. In the last decade, new and expanded hospitals have been built or are under construction in every region of our province to serve growing communities.
Your government heard more needs to be done, and will accelerate efforts to keep up with the fast pace of growth and replace aging infrastructure in all regions of the province.
Work is already underway to shift our health care system towards greater preventative care, but this work must be accelerated to keep our population the healthiest in Canada. More money will be specifically focused on reducing waitlists for patients and their families.
Your government will:
- accelerate access to hip and knee procedures;
- establish wait-time guarantees;
- speed up access to MRI services;
- increase access to family doctors by training 112 more General Practitioners, bringing the total to 400;
- increase the scope of practice for professions such as nurse practitioners and pharmacists; and
- increase support for health care teams delivering comprehensive services for patients.
Our health care system is particularly important for our senior citizens – those who cared for us, and are counting on us to care for them.
Your government is committed to increasing the number of residential care beds by 500, and ensuring clear, measureable daily care hour standards are in place, monitored, and enforced in every institution.
Your government will also increase its efforts to help families who care for their aging loved ones at home by doubling the Home Renovation Tax Credit to help people make necessary home improvements. It will also create a new Respite Tax Credit, and ensure both benefits apply to families who care for loved ones with disabilities.
Medical Services Plan
With a stronger provincial balance sheet, the time has come to reduce the cost of MSP for B.C. families without shifting the burden into income taxes. This must be done while continuing to increase overall healthcare funding.
With the confidence of the house, your government will cut MSP premiums by 50 per cent for households making up to $120,000 – saving families as much as $900 per year.
All parties in this House share the view that MSP should be eliminated. Your government supports a review that considers how this can be done as soon as possible.
Last year, the BC Teachers Federation won their court challenge at the Supreme Court of Canada. Together with teachers, your government is determined to ensure their win will be a win for every student.
Our students are already among the top in the world – first in reading, second in science, and sixth in math. The thousands of new teachers being hired across the province will ensure B.C. students will be even more successful.
We must also ensure student success is not limited to those who fit more easily into traditional classrooms. Your government will increase the number of educators providing instruction to students in need of extra support, whatever their unique needs.
Our students’ results prove that we have an excellent educational system – a tribute to those who work within it. But with the breathtaking pace of change in the world, our education system must adapt.
With the confidence of this house, your government will review the funding formula for school districts. The review will focus on supporting districts with declining enrollment, as well as ensuring fast-growing districts can keep up with growing demand sooner than current system allows.
Today, your government is announcing it will also convene a Royal Commission in Education – the first in 30 years. The work of that Commission, struck in 1987, laid the foundation for the success of our students today.
It is the right time to convene a new Royal Commission – one that shapes the future for a new generation of learners and educators as our society grows and changes.
How do we train teachers? What do we teach? How do we fund schools? How do we engage the community? How do we make sure testing and standards remain rigorous? How do we reduce conflict in the system and ensure student needs are always put first?
On these points, your government welcomes advice from a future Royal Commission.
Your government is continuing to make record investments in the new school construction and seismic upgrades. This will now include a commitment to ensure that all playgrounds requiring upgrades will be funded so parents no longer need to raise money for something we all recognize as essential for learning.
British Columbia is a leader in barrier-free living for our citizens. And your government will go further.
Your government will:
- increase accessibility requirements on new construction and in the design of public spaces;
- increasethe minimum number of suites within a multi-unit residential building designed with basic accessibility features, ensuring these suites are distributed throughout the building and represent the types and sizes of suites otherwise available in the building.