Premier John Horgan returned at the end of January from a 10-day mission to China, South Korea and Japan. The government is strengthening economic and cultural ties with those countries – which are three of BC’s largest trading partners – to expand markets, which creates good jobs for people throughout the province.
Meanwhile, the finance minister will present the 2018 budget in the legislature later this month, which will give us a clear idea of the government’s spending priorities and update the state of our finances. This comes in the wake of a restatement of BC’s triple-A credit rating by all the international financial watchdogs.
While all that is certainly good news, we are still faced with the starkly contradictory fact that the poverty rate in BC is among the worst in Canada. Too many people are struggling to make ends meet, earn a living wage, or find and keep affordable housing. Many families go without basic necessities, relying on food banks, and many children go to school hungry.
Remedying this situation is high on the Province’s agenda. As a first step, the BC government raised income assistance and disability rates by $100 per month to help people who need it most. This is only the beginning. There’s more to do, and for the first time, BC is developing a Poverty Reduction Strategy.
I joined MLA Mable Elmore, who is Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Social Development and Poverty Reduction, Shane Simpson, for a meeting with a number of community members in Sechelt Jan. 13. The meeting was one of a series of engagements with local municipal officials across the province, aimed at implementing a poverty reduction plan with targets and timelines.
You might have heard the news on a few other matters, but I will repeat it here in case you haven’t. First, the Children and Family Development Ministry has earmarked $500,000 to help create 72 new day care spaces for infants, toddlers and preschoolers on the Coast. Now we have to figure out how to train or recruit – and retain – the qualified people we need. Also, BC Housing has committed to supporting a homeless shelter in Gibsons. The need became clear during Rain City Housing’s talks to establish the Upper Deck shelter in Sechelt, which is now up and running. There’s much more to be done on the Gibsons project. If you would like to volunteer, please contact schomelesscommittee