WATCH: B.C.’s NDP government is promising to invest historic funding into affordable housing and childcare. The spending promises were outlined in Tuesday’s speech from the throne, ahead of next week’s provincial budget. Mary Griffin has the details.
Bringing in new measures to address the effect of speculation on real estate prices and freezing hydro rates are just some of the priorities for the B.C. government over the next year.
The plans were outlined in Tuesday’s throne speech, read by Lt.-Gov. Judith Guichon. The speech kicked off the spring sitting of the Legislative Assembly of British Columbia.
In the speech for the throne, British Columbia's New Democrats say their quest to make life more affordable for residents involves making the largest-ever investments in housing and child care.
‘Government's first step must be to address demand and stabilize B.C.’s out-of-control real estate and rental market’
There were a number of plans in the throne speech to help people deal with the high cost of housing.
“Safe decent housing is a right that is under threat by speculators, domestic and foreign, who seek windfall profits at the expense of people who work, live and pay taxes in B.C.,” Guichon read.
“We see the results of speculation in all parts of our province - distorted markets, sky-high prices and empty homes. Too many British Columbians are paying the price. Your government believes that people seeking to profit from B.C.’s real estate must also contribute to housing solutions.”
The government says it will be putting forward new measures in the budget to address the effect of speculation.
It also plans to introduce legislation to “crack down” on tax fraud, tax evasion and money laundering in B.C.’s real estate market.
The throne speech also mentioned the government’s recent announcement that Airbnb will be charging an eight per cent provincial sales tax (PST) on top of an up to three per cent municipal and regional district tax for short-term rentals offered through its services.
Stronger protections will be introduced for renters and owners of manufactured homes in the spring. There will also be protections for renters facing eviction due to renovation and demolition.
The government also plans to work with B.C.’s post-secondary institutions to build new student housing and support low-income renters by enhancing the Shelter Aid for Elderly Renters grants and Rental Assistance Program grants for families.
An investment will be made toward retrofits and renovations for social housing in B.C.However, there was no specific mention of a $400 rent subsidy, which the NDP campaigned on.
As for housing construction, the government said it will begin to make the largest investment in affordable housing in the province's history, including social housing, student housing, seniors housing, Indigenous housing and affordable rentals for middle-income families. The exact amount was not included in the throne speech.
The NDP government plans to enact reforms to bring down barriers to affordable housing and enable local governments to plan for affordable rental housing by zoning areas in the community. The affordable housing is set to be built near transit corridors.
It also plans to work with organizations that provide service regarding affordable housing through the province’s new Housing Hub, a division of BC Housing.
Communities are still working with the province to build 2,000 new modular homes for the homeless in British Columbia.
Affordability in the province
The government said in the throne speech that it has asked the BC Utilities Commission to freeze hydro rates for the next year. Freezing hydro rates was a key election promise for Premier John Horgan.
ICBC was also mentioned, with the government saying it has rejected the double-digit increase in rates to drivers and has taken action to keep rates down. It was announced earlier this month that there would be a $5,500 cap for pain and suffering on minor injuries claims.
The universal $10-a-day child care that the NDP campaigned on was not included in the speech, however, the government said it will make a “substantial investment” in child care.
"We know when we invest in childcare, everyone benefits. Government has also announced to today that will make significant investments to make sure families have access to safe, quality and affordable child care," Horgan said in a statement.
The government said in the speech that this will be the largest investment in childcare in B.C., but did not provide a number.
The NDP government will also work on converting unlicensed spaces to licensed, regulated child care so parents can benefit from government savings.
It also plans to introduce new legislation to give parents vital information about unlawful or problem providers of unlicensedchild care and increase training of early childhood educators.
The throne speech outlined other priorities for the NDP government. Here are some of them
- Delivering B.C.’s first-ever Poverty Reduction Strategy. This will rely on investments across government.
- Continue to work on renewing the B.C. Human Rights Commission
- Keep plans to increase minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2021
- Update procurement policies for B.C. businesses so they can compete for government contracts
- Fight for a fair deal on softwood lumber and seek new markets for forest products.
- Launch the Emerging Economy Task Force. The throne speech also mentioned that B.C.’s first Innovation Commissioner has been named to advocate for B.C.’s technology sector across the country and internationally. This was an initiative of the B.C. Green Caucus.
- Create 2,900 new technology-related spaces at colleges and universities, including the first full software engineering program in B.C.’s Interior and the first full engineering degree in northern B.C.
- Establish a new playground capital fund
- Review school funding in rural and northern communities
- Begin creating a cross-ministry framework to meet commitments to the United Nations Declaration for the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, the Calls to Action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the Tsilhqot’in decision.
- Invest in plans to support Indigenous peoples, languages and culture
- Move forward with new hospitals and revitalize facilities in rural and remote communities, as well as the Lower Mainland
- Have family doctors, nurses, nurse practitioners and other health-care professions to offer team-based bare to reduce pressure on emergency rooms
- Reduce surgical wait times
- Increase time caregivers spend with seniors, provide more supports for people caring for elderly family members and train more people to meet future demand for care
Marijuana legalization and public safety
- Introduce legislation and policy ahead of the legalization of non-medical marijuana this summer by the federal government. This will include rules for retail sale, establish places of use, limits for possession and personal cultivation. There will also be penalties for drug-impaired driving.
- New investments in transition housing for women and children fleeing violence
- A comprehensive review of B.C.’s coastal ferry service to ensure the ferries are efficient and effectiv
- New public awareness campaign to reduce the stigma of addiction
- Investing $20 million over three years to support First Nations communities in dealing with the overdose crisis
Climate change and environment
- Continue research to address fugitive emissions in the oil and gas sector, and slash burning
- Support projects that support sustainable growth and reduce climate pollution
- Update the price of carbon. The federal mandate is $50 per tonne by 2022.
- Consider new protections to improve ability to prepare for and respond to bitumen spills
With files from The Canadian Press