By Carole James
It has been quite a summer. After a spring filled with tension and uncertainty over the future governance of the province, John Horgan was sworn in as B.C. Premier on July 18, and I was proud and honoured to be sworn in as his Deputy Premier and Minister of Finance.
We have an exciting opportunity as the new government to address many of the problems that British Columbians tell us are priorities, such as the lack of affordable housing, the opioid crisis, inadequate mental health and addictions services, child poverty, scarcity of resources for our schools, and many, many more.
We haven’t wasted any time and we are moving ahead already. In our first week in government we raised Income Assistance and Disability rates by $100 per month, we committed more resources to respond to the wildfire emergency across the province and provide support to evacuees, and the Premier travelled to Ottawa and Washington, DC to discuss the critical issues facing B.C..
In our first month we announced the re-establishment of the B.C. Human Rights Commission, we removed fees for Adult Basic Education and English Language Learning programs; we sent the Site C Dam project to the B.C. Utilities Commission for immediate review, and we hired Tom Berger as legal counsel for Government, a first step in opposing the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain Expansion Pipeline.
As Minister of Finance I have been working hard over the past month-and-a-half to put together a budget for September. The Legislative Assembly will reconvene on September 8 with a new Throne Speech, and after introducing the interim budget I will begin the work of developing a full budget for February 2018. I will be working with the other members of cabinet to ensure that our provincial budget reflects the commitments we made to British Columbians back in May.
I’m looking forward to working in a minority parliament, and cooperating with all members of the House in getting to work for the people of B.C.. There is a lot of work to be done to make life more affordable, to fix the services people count on, and to protect our environment and fight climate change, and I’m optimistic that MLAs working together across party lines can bring the change people have been calling for.
Apart from preparing for the fall legislative session, over the past couple of months I’ve also been happy to attend several community events. I was honoured to welcome 150 new Canadians at the Canada Day citizenship ceremony at Government House; to serve community members at the Cook Street Village Activity Centre’s annual BBQ on July 8; to march with fellow MLAs in the Victoria Pride Parade on July 9; to congratulate the teams and coaches at the B.C. Little League provincial tournament at Hollywood Park on July 23; and to help open the 8th annual India Mela at Centennial Square on August 12. I hope to attend many more community events this fall.
As always, please feel free to contact my community office if you need assistance with any provincial government programs, or if you want to share an idea or perspective on any of the many issues facing our new government. Though I have a new role as Minister of Finance, I am still MLA for Victoria-Beacon Hill, and I look forward to continuing to represent our community and building a better B.C.