Throne Speech 2018: B.C. government promises ‘historic investments’ in child care, housing

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WATCH: Child care and housing are the focus of the BC NDP government's speech from the throne. Keith Baldrey has the details – Feb 13, 2018

The B.C. government is planning on introducing new measures to crack down on speculation in Metro Vancouver’s overheated housing market. In the speech from the throne read this afternoon by Lieutenant Governor Judith Guichon, the NDP vowed to bring in new policies around housing in next week’s provincial budget.

“Government’s first step must be to address demand and stabilize B.C.’s out-of-control real estate and rental market,” read Guichon. “Budget 2018 will put forward new measures to address the effect of speculation on real estate prices.”

NDP focus on wide variety of housing fixes

The throne speech sets up the NDP government’s first full budget, which will be introduced on Feb. 20. As part of attempted solutions to address the lack of affordability in the housing market, the government is promising new legislation that will “crack down on tax fraud, tax evasion and money laundering in B.C.’s real estate market.”

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A lot of the commitments in the throne speech come directly from the NDP’s 2017 election platform. The speech includes a promise to start making the largest investment in affordable housing in B.C.’s history. That includes social housing, student housing, seniors housing, Indigenous housing and affordable rentals for middle-income families.

READ MORE: Real estate expert says NDP have limited tools to reduce housing prices

The NDP is offering vague commitments on reforms to bring down barriers to affordable housing and work with partners to get them built. On top of that, the province will be introducing stronger protections for renters facing eviction due to renovation or demolition this spring and allow universities to take on debt to fund new student housing.

What wasn’t in the speech is any mention of the $400 annual rebate for renters that was promised during the election campaign.

New money coming for child care

The other focus of the speech is child care. The provincial government signed an agreement last week with the federal government that will see $153 million over three years come from Ottawa to cover additional spaces and affordable care.

“Safe, affordable, licensed care will become B.C.’s standard, giving parents the peace of mind they need and quality care they can rely on,” read Guichon in the throne speech.

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As part of the move towards a $10-a-day child care program the province will increase training of early childhood educators. But there is no timeline yet on when the government will be able to fulfill the election promise nor was $10-a-day child care mentioned in the speech.

READ MORE: B.C. legislature session kicks off Tuesday with speech from the throne

Premier John Horgan’s government has made unlicensed daycares a priority as well. Horgan has a picture of Mac Saini, a Vancouver toddler who died in an unlicensed child care facility last year, in his office. The throne speech mentions a new policy that would make it easier for parents to see the history of an unlicensed facility.

“Government will introduce new legislation to give parents vital information about unlawful or problem providers of unlicensed child care. These new rules will give families the information they need to make sure they are making the best and safest choice for their child.”

Pattullo bridge replacement high priority

Aside from housing and child care, the throne speech addresses a number of other issues.

The government is pledging to move quickly to replace the aging Pattullo Bridge claiming the bridge will no longer be safe in five years. There is no mention in the speech of the Surrey LRT or Broadway subway line. The province has committed to implementing the Metro Vancouver mayors’ plans to improve public transit.

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READ MORE: New Westminster mayor sees bridge toll removal as a mixed blessing

Next week’s budget is now expected to include an update on the cost of carbon, as it goes towards federally mandated $50 per tonne by 2022.

“As the price goes up, government will take steps to help families, and ensure emissions-intensive industries remain competitive and protect jobs, while reducing their emissions,” read Guichon.

The government does not mention the ongoing dispute with Alberta in the speech, but does mention the potential of a diluted bitumen spill on B.C.’s coast poses risk to economy and environment. Alberta is concerned about the possibility of B.C. restricting the flow of bitumen to the coast.

On cannabis, the government will soon launch a public education campaign to ensure that the public knows the rules for using cannabis before the law comes into force.

On education, there is a commitment in the throne speech to get children out of portables. During the election the NDP promised to get rid of those temporary classrooms in Surrey.

READ MORE: The Surrey school district is dealing with a portable shortage

“In many growing communities, students are forced to learn in portables, instead of a real classroom,” Guichon said.

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The NDP has also vowed to have a new strategy on Indigenous relations, with a focus on reconciliation.

“We must close the socio-economic gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities, and invest in the capacity building that is critical for self-determination,” reads the speech.

Additional mentions and commitments in the throne speech

  • Poverty Reduction Strategy coming this year
  • Enhancing the Shelter Aid for Elderly Renters grants and Rental Assistance Program grants for families
  • Renewing the BC Human Rights Commission
  • Minimum wage increase coming in June, path to $15 an hour by June 2021
  • First steps to review the province’s Labour Code, committed to be safest place to work in Canada
  • Action to reduce surgical wait times
  • Team-based health care to reduce pressure on emergency rooms
  • Increase the time caregivers spend with seniors
  • New investments in transition housing for women and children fleeing violence
  • Comprehensive review of B.C.’s coastal ferry service
  • New public awareness campaign to reduce stigma of addiction
  • New playground capital fund
  • New climate plan to be developed over the ‘coming months’
  • B.C. will update environmental assessment process
  • Province commits to ‘revitalize the forest industry’s social contract’.
  • Independent review into last year’s fires and lead to investment in prevention
  • Emerging Economy Task Force will be launched in the spring
  • Government set to create 2,900 new tech-related spaces at colleges and universities throughout the province