By Carole James
As we head into the holiday season, it’s timely to look back and consider the year soon to pass. I am honoured to serve as the MLA for Victoria-Beacon Hill, the Minister of Finance, and as Deputy Premier. It is a privilege and I am so very grateful for the longstanding support from our community.
I would like to highlight a few of the initiatives from the last few months of 2018 that may be of particular interest to you and your family.
Eliminating MSP premiums
We are eliminating MSP premiums on January 1, 2020, and have already cut them by 50 percent. Eliminating MSP premiums will save individuals up to $900 per year and families up to $1,800 per year.
We’re introducing the Employer Health Tax (EHT), a more progressive system that will put money back into the pockets of British Columbians. Together, these measures will reduce taxes on people and businesses by about $800 million each year.
Less than 5% of B.C. businesses will pay the full EHT rate of 1.95%, and the majority of small businesses are protected with a $500,000 exemption amount that will phase out gradually. The legislation also establishes a $1.5-million exemption amount for charities and non-profits, and that will be similarly phased out.
Re-establishing a B.C. Human Rights Commission
For years, B.C has been the only province in Canada without a Human Rights Commission–because it was scrapped by the B.C. Liberal government in 2002.
As we see what's happening around the globe, it has never been more important that governments do all they can to end discrimination and stand up for human rights.
Every person deserves to be treated with dignity and respect. By re-establishing a human rights commission, we are creating a more inclusive and just society for all British Columbians.
New homes for women and children fleeing violence
Our government is building 280 new homes to provide safe places to stay for women and children fleeing violence, the first major investment in transition housing in more than two decades. These homes will be delivered in 12 projects around the province.
They are the first step in the government's new Building B.C.: Women's Transition Housing Fund. It’s a $734 million investment over 10 years to build 1,500 transition housing, second-stage housing and affordable housing spaces for women and children fleeing violence.
Historic legislation sets targets, timelines to reduce poverty
Years of ignoring and underfunding social programs has led to B.C. having the second worst poverty rate in Canada. We’ve introduced legislation that marks a turning point for our province and it’s an historic first step that sets out bold poverty reduction targets on the road to lifting people out of poverty.
British Columbia’s first Poverty Reduction Strategy, guided by legislation introduced October 2, will lift thousands of people out of poverty, create more opportunities to break the cycle of poverty and make it easier for people to participate in their community. The Poverty Reduction Strategy Act will define the scope of the strategy, which will be released in early 2019, and sets poverty reduction targets and timelines that government must meet.
Therapeutic recovery community
Our community has come together to open an innovative therapeutic community. Located in the former youth custody centre in View Royal, this facility will help men who have repeat experiences with incarceration, homelessness and addiction.
Based on the San Patrignano Therapeutic Community in Italy, Our Place Society’s therapeutic recovery community will use work for both therapy and education. All participants will be given the opportunity to develop skills in construction, woodworking, cooking and other areas.
Developing these skills will give residents a stronger sense of purpose while also increasing the opportunity for meaningful employment outside of the recovery community. The Italian community reports a 72% full-recovery rate for residents who complete the program.
Thanks to Our Place Society, the Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions, B.C. Housing, Island Health, the Town of View Royal and others in our community who have contributed dollars and support to make this happen. This is truly a new approach that holds great promise.
Best wishes to you and your loved ones for a safe and happy holiday season. I hope you can drop in for our Holiday Open House at the Victoria-Beacon Hill Constituency Office at 1084 Fort Street. It’s on Thursday, December 13th from 3:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.