BC Indigenous Human Rights Legislation Passed Unanimously: British Columbia is the first province in Canada to enshrine the human rights of Indigenous peoples in law. Bill 41, the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act, passed unanimously on Tuesday, November26, 2019. The legislation establishes the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples as the foundational framework for reconciliation in B.C., as called for by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. The provincial government developed the Bill in collaboration with the First Nations Leadership Council, which was acting on the direction of First Nations leaders throughout the province.
New Whistleblower Protections: The Public Interest Disclosure Act (PIDA) has come into effect, creating new protections to current and past direct provincial government employees who bring forward concerns about serious wrongdoing or who come under investigation. PIDA ensures confidentiality and protects whistleblowers from reprisals. It also requires ministries and the ombudsperson to report the number of disclosures they receive and the results of any investigations they undertake each year. The government plans to expand the legislation’s protections to include schools, municipalities, universities, Crown corporations and health authorities over the next five years.
The End of MSP: As of January 1st, 2020, Medical Services Plan (MSP) premiums will be eliminated. Elimination of the regressive tax will save individuals up to $900 a year and families as much as $1,800 a year. This is one of the largest tax cuts for people in B.C.’s history.
Milestone Reached in Universal Childcare Plan: The Province has funded more than 10,400 new, affordable licensed child care spaces as part of the Childcare BC plan. The plan has further saved parents more than $320 million through the Affordable Child Care Benefit and Child Care Fee Reduction Initiative. Through these initiatives, more than 20,000 families have received child care for no more than $10 a day since September 2018. As well, the Province has made significant investments to improve supports to B.C.’s early care and learning professionals. To date, more than 10,000 early childhood educators have received a $1-per-hour wage enhancement, with another $1-per-hour lift to come in April 2020.
BC’s Economy Remains Resilient: British Columbia continues to lead Canada as the only province with a triple-A credit rating from the three major international rating agencies. The Province remains an economic leader, with the lowest unemployment rate in the country, continued wage growth, among the lowest debt-to-GDP ratios for all provinces and a balanced budget that includes historic investments in child care, housing and infrastructure.
Climate Change Submissions Sought: The Province is looking for public input to help develop a new strategy that will better prepare B.C. communities for the impacts of climate change. People can share their thoughts until January 10th, 2020, through an online questionnaire, discussion forum and written submissions. Additional opportunities for public input will follow in early 2020, with the release of the final climate preparedness and adaptation strategy later in the year. To share your thoughts on how B.C. can develop a new strategy to prepare for climate change, visit the public engagement site: https://www.engage.gov.bc.ca/climatereadybc
Busy Legislative Session: Along with the passing of Bill 41, some key legislation passed:
- Government gave more weight to the Province’s CleanBC plan to fight climate change with the Climate Change Accountability Act.
- Changes to the Motor Vehicle Act will enable more solar power plants and make green transportation devices, such as electric scooters, safer and easier for everyone to use.
- The Fuel Price Transparency Act will bring more fairness to the prices drivers pay at the pumps. Holding gas companies accountable and providing a clear view into how prices are set will give government more opportunity to make sure British Columbians are not overcharged.
- The Interpretation Amendment Act will allow the government to move to permanent daylight saving time at a future date in consultation with Washington, Oregon, California and the Yukon, who have all signalled their intention to join B.C. in ending the annual time change.
- Changes to the Election Act will pave the way for modern technology to reduce lineups at polling places, make vote counting faster and more consistent, and give voters more flexibility in where they can cast their ballot in provincial elections.
Legislative Session: The House is adjourned for the Christmas break. The next sitting of the Legislature will be on February 11, 2020 for the speech from the throne. The government’s 2020 budget will be delivered on February 18, 2020.