Thursday, March 1, 2018

North Coast MLA's Budget Defence includes Prince Rupert references

North Coast MLA Jennifer Rice provided for a speech in the  Legislature on
Wednesday afternoon, with comments in strong in support of the NDP budget

Over the last week and a bit now, MLA's from all three parties in the Legislature have been taking to their allotted time, to weigh in on the themes from this years British Columbia Budget.

Not surprisingly, to this point the commentary has reflected the political divide in the House, with the Liberals providing for the critical eye towards many of the elements of Finance Minister Carole James document, while the NDP and Green members have found much to like in the financial blue print.

Wednesday brought North Coast MLA Jennifer Rice into the discussion, with Ms. Rice speaking during Wednesday's session to highlight the many positive elements that she wished to put forward on behalf of the government.

Opening up her presentation on the afternoon with some definite partisan lines, she returned to a stream of familiar charges from the NDP's days of opposition. With Ms. Rice making frequent reference to how the Liberals had ignored or neglected the needs of the residents of BC in the past, while observing that they had protected the interests of their wealthy and well connected friends.

Turning to the NDP's plan as revealed last week by the Finance Minister,  the MLA explored many of the programs and services that the Budget provided for and  incorporated a number of stories from the North Coast to highlight how the budget will impact on residents of Prince Rupert and other areas of the constituency.

She led off her review of the Budget with a look towards Indigenous issues, and the NDP's commitment towards action in the area of Truth and Reconciliation, noting the recent announcement of funding towards protection of First Nation languages

Rose, a Nisga'a elder, has called my office on more than one occasion to discuss the need for the Crown to help Indigenous communities restore Indigenous languages lost through colonization and residential schools. She's expressed her sadness as an elder that the language may be lost forever if more is not done to help. 

After spending time at Hobiyee just last weekend and watching generations pass on traditional knowledge of song, culture and dance, I am so proud to be part of a government that has heard Rose's call and is spending $50 million over the next three years to revitalize Indigenous languages in British Columbia.

On themes of the NDP's plan for Child care, the MLA called on her time as a City Councillor in Prince Rupert to highlight how the moves from the NDP address some of the key issues that are found today.

We need to heed the ever-expanding body of research showing us that public spending on child care is a wise social and economic investment. When I was a Prince Rupert city councillor in about 2011 and attending a forum at UBCM, a presenter questioned the audience in attendance. He wondered what we thought was one of the biggest policy change that could be made that would impact the number of people in making their life more affordable.

In other words, in an age of growing inequality where those with means are getting wealthier and the have-nots are getting poorer, what was the one thing society could do to level the playing field for the most number of people? Attendees shouted out ideas like free tuition and better old age security, but the answer surprised me and surprised others. It was universal child care. 

Affordable and accessible child care was the one policy change we could put in place that would support the most number of people, according to UBC public policy researcher Paul Kershaw. In this budget, the first full budget of the B.C. NDP, we understand that, and as many as 86,000 British Columbians will be eligible for an affordable child care benefit.

Housing also made for one of Ms. Rice's themes, with the MLA making note of the province's plans for affordable housing in Prince Rupert this Spring.

However as part of that overview for the Legislature on Wednesday she didn't provide for any further review of the timeline as to when those promised units will be arriving in her hometown.

We can't fix the housing crisis overnight, but we can act now and plan for the future. That's why we will invest more than $7 billion over the next ten years. Our investment will support almost 34,000 units of affordable rental, supportive and student housing. This will be the largest investment in housing in the history of our province.

We are charting a path to help build 114,000 affordable housing units. This can only be done by building partnerships. In my own hometown of Prince Rupert, we're providing capital funding of approximately $3.6 million for a 44-unit modular housing project for people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness in Prince Rupert. This project could not come to fruition without the support and the partnership of the city of Prince Rupert.

We know housing affordability can hit renters the hardest, and many of our most vulnerable citizens are at risk. People who rent their homes deserve to be able to plan for the future. Laurie is a Wet'suwet'en woman who has come to my office to ask for assistance with housing. She lives in one of the many homes in Prince Rupert that was built in the early to mid-20th century. She's on a waiting list with M'akola Housing, and while she waits, she's left to pay high hydro bills from a home that needs extensive updating and renovations. 

Our government's investment of $158 million to partner with housing societies and First Nations to build and to support 1,750 new housing units will benefit women like Laurie who feel trapped due to a lack of affordable housing options.

Other areas where the MLA delivered the NDP government's talking points were on Health care, Ferry rates, Renters' rights and a few thoughts on the issue of climate change, to name a few of the areas Ms. Rice touched on in her near twenty five minute presentation to the Legislature.

You can review the full transcript of her Wednesday afternoon Budget overview from the Hansard Archive here, Ms. Rice's commentary starts at the 17:00 PM point.

The video of the Wednesday House Session is also available from the Legislature Archive page, the Budget commentary can be found as part of the Chamber video starting at the 4:57 PM mark.

For more items related to the work of the North Coast MLA in Victoria see our archive page here.

A wider overview of the political scene in Victoria is available through our companion blog D'Arcy McGee.

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