By Carole James
The fall session of the Legislature is underway. Over the last few weeks, we've introduced some new measures that I would like to highlight.
Our government is focused on ways that we can make life more affordable, improve the services people count on, and create good jobs and a strong, sustainable economy here on the South Island and throughout B.C.
Help for renters
We’ve been listening to the concerns of renters and have just announced that the allowable rent increase for 2019 will be held to 2.5% -- the rate of inflation. It’s simply not sustainable for renters, many of whom are on fixed incomes, to see their rent increase by more than inflation each and every year.
Our new approach strikes a balance between giving relief to renters while encouraging people to maintain their rental properties. We recognize supply is key to bringing down rental costs in the long term, but renters have told us they are hurting and need help today. That’s why we are taking careful steps to address the housing crisis and ease the pressure on renters, while also making sure that landlords have the tools they need to continue to invest in their rental properties.
Improving care for our elders
We are mindful of the challenges facing long-term residential care facilities, and have recently announced the allocation of an additional $240 million over the next three years. The additional dollars will increase the direct care seniors receive to 3.36 hours per-resident day, on average, in each health authority, by 2021. This will mark the first time this average has been reached since the Ministry of Health set that target almost 10 years ago.
This investment will mean better working conditions and benefits for health-care aides. Currently, more than 50% of aides are working part-time or casual shifts. In 2017-18, 330 health-care aides were converted to full-time positions, with another 500 to follow this year. By the end of the strategy, the Ministry of Health estimates that approximately 1,500 new full-time equivalent positions will be added.
A strategy for reducing poverty
We are developing B.C.’s first Poverty Reduction Strategy, which will be released in early 2019. We’ve introduced legislation with bold poverty reduction targets.
It sets out the targets and timelines, defines the scope of the strategy, and ensures that government will be held accountable. Establishing those targets and that accountability in law means that poverty reduction will be a priority for the province.
Over the next five years, we will reduce the overall poverty rate by 25 per cent, and the child poverty rate by 50 per cent. These are more than just numbers, these are people’s lives.
Government has already acted to begin to rebuild our social programs and people are seeing a difference. Over the last year, thousands of people have moved into new affordable homes, had their daycare costs reduced, MSP premiums cut in half, and the minimum wage go up.
We know that children who live in poverty often don’t do as well in life – poverty negatively affects their health and education outcomes, which traps them in the poverty cycle. It means that we can begin to break the cycle that keeps people trapped in poverty from one generation to the next. When you invest in children you lift up the entire family.
Shutting down dirty money
The last government allowed the real estate market to turn into the Wild West with rampant speculation and out-of-control prices. We're launching a two-pronged review aimed at shutting down avenues for money laundering in real estate and other sectors.
The first component, led by the Ministry of Finance, will identify systemic risks that leave the real estate and financial services sectors open to money laundering. The other, led by the Attorney General, will investigate specific case examples of problematic activity in real estate and other vulnerable sectors to uncover the ways that money launderers have operated in the province.
2018 Referendum on Electoral Reform
Voting packages for the 2018 Referendum on Electoral Reform have been sent out from Elections BC, and the deadline to mail in ballots is November 30. For more information, visit https://elections.bc.ca/referendum/ or call 1-800-661-8683.
Please stay in touch. I hope you are having a great autumn!
MLA, Victoria-Beacon Hill
1084 Fort Street, Victoria, BC V8V 3K4
Phone: 250 952-4211