February 19, 2019
Victoria – Metro Vancouver Alliance (MVA) is a broad-based alliance of 57 civil society institutions who work together for the common good. Our member and sponsoring organizations represent 200,000 people in Metro Vancouver and over 700,000 people across the Province.
At our Provincial Election Accountability Assembly on April 4, 2017, we received commitments from Premier Horgan and Andrew Weaver on our provincial priorities. In May and October 2018, we met with Minister James and asked her to prioritize and support these commitments in the provincial budget. Today we attended the budget lock-up and examined how the Government is doing on our promises.
With an overall theme of affordability and helping families, MVA is encouraged by the spending priorities in today’s provincial budget which address the affordable housing crisis, access to transit, access to healthcare, and income inequality in British Columbia. This is how the budget aligns with our priorities.
Until now, British Columbia was the only province without a plan to reduce poverty. MVA received a commitment from Premier Horgan to work with us and our partners at the BC Poverty Reduction Coalition to develop a bold and comprehensive strategy to address the depth of poverty in our province. We are pleased to see the government unveil a Poverty Reduction Plan in this session. Related budget items include eliminating MSP premiums; eliminating student loan interest; raising income and disability rates by $50/month; removing barriers to access the BC Employment Assistance program; and funding community-operated rent banks. It is an encouraging start and will begin to make an immediate impact in people’s lives. We look forward to hearing the full details of the plan this Spring. We continue to work with our partners at the BC Poverty Reduction Coalition and government to address the depth of poverty in our communities. This work will be ongoing until we see meaningful change in the lives of our members.
Housing unaffordability continues to top the list of pressures facing families in BC. MVA called for the BC Government to spend $3B a year to build 10,000 new affordable housing units per year for the next 5 years. Budget 2018 introduced a housing plan to invest $7B over 10 years for 114,000 housing units. In 2018 they built 17,000. The 2019 budget shows the continuation of this spending commitment. It also includes funding for 200 additional modular units for homeless, bringing the total to 2200. This is not enough to meet the needs of BC residents; we had hoped to see a greater investment in truly affordable housing to meet the commitment we secured from Premier Horgan in 2017.
Accessible & Affordable Transit
In 2017, MVA asked Horgan to commit to increasing HandyDART vehicle service hours by 5% for the next 4 years across the entire province through special funding directly from the province. HandyDART service in all jurisdictions is suffering, and HandyDART riders with it. As in 2018, there is no line item for this in the 2019 budget. BC Transit is getting an additional $21M in funding, so we will see some further increase in service. It is not enough and we will continue to advocate for more HandyDART vehicle hours.
Access to transportation is critical for BC residents. We must be able to get to work, to school, to the doctor, to see our families, and to participate in civic life. MVA has asked the province to fund free transit for children and a sliding-scale low-income transit pass. There is nothing in the budget to reflect funding for these programs.
MVA asked Premier Horgan to commit to increase access to coordinated primary, community, and social care services. We specifically recommended and received commitment for an annualized global funding model for Community Health Centres, and for investment in 20 new community-governed, not-for-profit Community Health Centres by 2020. The 2019 budget invests in many areas of healthcare, including 5 more new urgent primary care centres, as well as expanding and upgrading hospitals and improving integrated mental health care services. Our ask for new Community Health Centres and a global funding model however is not addressed.
This was MVA’s first invitation in the budget lock-up. This recognition is a testament to the power of the work we are doing together. Although there is more to do, we are pleased to see the provincial government engaging with civil society organizations. We will continue to build on this momentum.
Maria Robinson / firstname.lastname@example.org / 778-773-2895
Tracey Maynard, Lead Organizer / email@example.com