Wherever I go, I meet people who have had to make difficult choices to help their family get ahead and thrive. Over the past decade British Columbians have struggled with rising costs and declining services, because of decisions that were made to benefit the few at the top.
Our government is making different choices and putting people first – and that’s starting to yield real benefits for people.
Last fall, we announced the first phases of our universal child care policy through a $10-a-day pilot program.
I was in a room with a group of parents when it was first announced, and the look on their faces was something I will never forget. The relief and joy they felt is something I want for every family in this province.
That’s why we’re working to reducing costs and fees across the board, so that you have more money in your pocket to pay for necessities, or to save for the future.
We’re tackling the housing crisis, providing more affordable childcare for more families, and making sure quality public services like health care and education are delivered in every community.
And we’re working to build a strong, sustainable economy that works for people and creates opportunities now, while meeting the challenges of tomorrow.
People are beginning to see the results of this work in their daily lives. MSP premiums have been cut in half, saving families up to $900 per year. MSP is disappearing entirely on Jan. 1, 2020, making this the biggest middle-class tax cut in B.C. history.
Parents are saving up to $15,000 per year per child through the Affordable Child Care Benefit, which is available to all families in B.C. earning up to $111,000 per year. We’re also reducing fees for parents of kids in licensed care – up to $350 per month, $4,200 per year, for more than 52,000 child care spaces.
For B.C. patients waiting for MRIs, we are delivering 37,000 more MRIs this year than last. In addition to funding for more MRIs, machines are being used more efficiently resulting in more than 800 additional MRI operating hours per week around the province.
People are getting the care they need through urgent primary care centres that have opened in Surrey, Langford, Kamloops, Quesnel and Vancouver and five more centres – one in each health region, including one recently announced in Nanaimo – will open by spring 2019. Since opening, the new Urgent Primary Care Centres have had nearly 20,000 patient visits.
We’re also working to deliver a better, more affordable ferry service that people in coastal communities can count on. We’ve frozen fares on major routes, cut fares by 15 per cent on smaller and northern routes, added more round trips per year, and seniors travel free Monday through Thursday.
New classrooms for thousands of students are underway throughout B.C., including new and expanded schools in growing communities to help move kids out of portables and into classrooms.
To make sure people have access to the rental housing they need, 17,000 new affordable housing units are underway for families, heading towards a total of 114,000 over 10 years. And we can see the housing market beginning to moderate.
To address the skills shortage, and make sure people have access to the training they need, we’re boosting apprenticeship opportunities and adding 2,900 tech-related post-secondary spaces.
It’s all part of building a better province and a prosperous economy that works for everyone, while opening up opportunities for people. And it’s only the beginning.
There is much more work to be done. We’re going to keep working hard to make life better for people, and build a brighter future for B.C.
John Horgan is the premier of B.C. and the MLA for Langford-Juan de Fuca.