Editor’s note: This is the first of four op-eds by Doug Clovechok, a Fairmont Hot Springs resident and president of the BC Liberal Columbia River-Revelstoke Riding Association. The first two instalments will be commentaries on his views of successes the B.C. government has achieved. For the last two instalments, readers are invited to email
firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions or hot-button issues they would like Mr. Clovechok to address.
One of the many questions I get from constituents is: “What is actually accomplished for British Columbians during the Legislative sittings?” Although the list of accomplishments is far too long for this column, I’m excited to offer some insights into a few.
Over the past four months, our B.C. government did some pretty noteworthy things to guide B.C. to success. Maintaining a commitment to a strong economy, controlled spending, low taxes and smart investments creates a better, more secure B.C. for all of us, especially those of us in the Kootenays.
The first major accomplishment of the Spring Session was passing a third consecutive balanced budget, putting our projected surplus at $879 million. This budget is remarkable for another reason. Even with oil prices down and the world economy still in recovery, B.C. is one of only a few governments in Canada to balance its books this year.
Budget 2015 allows us to make modest, strategic investments to maintain public services like health care and education, strengthen and encourage growth in key economic sectors, and make life a little easier for families and those in need.
And as well as reducing the burden on future generations, B.C. has also received affirmation from four of the world’s most prestigious credit rating agencies. We’ve maintained our AAA credit rating and this means we outrank every other province in the country. An AAA credit rating will save taxpayers millions of dollars annually in borrowing costs. And when investors know they can trust us, it leads to more investment in our province, creating great jobs here at home. All of this will leave our kids with a bright and secure tomorrow.
Thanks to this demonstration of fiscal prudence, Canadian economists, including those from the Bank of Montreal and the Conference Board of Canada, predict that we will lead the nation in economic growth, both this year and in the years to come.
So what about British Columbian families? Public health care will see a $3 billion boost over the next three years. K-12 education will receive an additional $564 million, including a 33 per cent increase to the Learning Improvement Fund. And many of our provinces most vulnerable will receive an additional $100 million through Community Living BC.
A third consecutive balanced budget also means room for investments to help families on income and disability assistance. B.C. is now the first province to fully exempt child-support for families receiving social assistance. This change will benefit 5,400 children. B.C. also eased the transition to employment for families with children who receive income assistance, doubling their monthly income exemption.
The Single Parent Employment Initiative will enable single parents to stay on assistance for up to 12 months while they train for their new job, covering tuition and education, along with child care and transportation expenses, if needed, for the first year of employment after their training. This Initiative has the potential to lift 16,000 single parents and their 26,000 children out of income assistance into employment and independence, giving them a hand up, not a hand out.
Protecting Communities and People was of paramount importance in the spring sitting. To help arrest increasing domestic violence numbers, a new radio and social media campaign — #SaySomething — started up this spring with the aim to end the silence associated with domestic violence by encouraging all British Columbians to speak up and learn how they can help! In addition, 220 grants worth $5 million and funded through B.C.’s civil forfeiture program were delivered to groups for initiatives that address violence against women and preventing crime.
Moving forward towards 2017, our BC Liberal Riding Association and I have lots of work to do, and we want to hear from you on your vision for a stronger, thriving Kootenay region.
Doug Clovechok is the BC Liberal regional director for the East and West Kootenays, and the president of the BC Liberal Columbia River Revelstoke Riding Association. He can be contacted at email@example.com.