The spring 2021 legislative session comes to a close as British Columbia moves safely into Step 2 of its restart plan, a result of declining case counts and climbing vaccination rates.
The session was highlighted by measures to keep people safe and fight the pandemic, while building the foundation for a strong economic recovery and continuing to make life better for people.
“As this session ends, we are carefully and safely returning to life more like we knew it before the COVID-19 pandemic turned our world upside down,” said Premier John Horgan. “Our primary goal over the last year has never wavered – to protect British Columbians’ health and livelihoods. During the pandemic, British Columbia has delivered more direct supports per capita to people and to businesses than any other province. Recently, we have focused on ensuring the success of the largest vaccine rollout in our province’s history and laying the foundations for a strong recovery that works for people.”
The session focused on supporting people now and creating the conditions for a strong economic recovery with the introduction of Budget 2021.
The budget included record investments to improve health care, such as:
- new funding for testing, contact tracing, personal protective equipment and the largest vaccine rollout in B.C.’s history;
- helping patients get faster access to surgeries and shorter wait times for diagnostic imaging;
- better care for seniors;
- the largest investment in mental health and addictions services in B.C.’s history;
- building hospitals, including the new Surrey hospital and cancer centre; and
- addressing systemic racism in health care and ensuring Indigenous peoples have access to culturally appropriate care.
Budget 2021 also saves families up to $672 a year per child with free public transportation for children 12 and under, doubles the number of $10-a-day child care spaces and continues to fund the BC Recovery Benefit, which provides up to $1,000 to families and single parents.
The budget supports a strong economic recovery, including creating more than 85,000 jobs and strengthening communities around B.C. with record infrastructure investments. It will help thousands of people find new jobs in sectors like health care through investments in post-secondary education and skills training programs and supports building 9,000 new homes for middle-income families.
Legislation in this session paved the way for a $500-million strategic investment fund that will position B.C. as a front-runner in the post-pandemic economy. InBC will help promising B.C. businesses scale up and attract world-class talent.
Landmark legislation was passed to improve the lives of people living with disabilities, setting British Columbia on the path to a more accessible and inclusive province for people and their support networks.
The legislature took an important step to moving B.C. towards inclusive and universal child care by introducing and passing the early learning and child care act. The act reduces barriers to quality care and increases transparency and accountability.
During the session, government also set out a bold new vision for a modern forestry industry – one that preserves more old growth, ensures benefits are shared more fairly with Indigenous peoples and protects jobs by promoting high-value products like mass timber.
The goals of tackling the climate crisis and supporting clean tech were advanced by setting sectoral targets to guide the reduction of carbon pollution, keeping government accountable as it works with each sector of the economy to lower emissions while remaining globally competitive.
Government moved forward on drug decriminalization and overdose support by officially requesting a federal exemption from Health Canada to decriminalize personal possession of drugs in the province. This helps remove the shame that often prevents people from reaching out for life-saving support.
“Over the past months, we have been inspired by the resiliency of our fellow British Columbians. Under the most trying of circumstances, they have made sacrifices. It has been a shared effort,” Premier Horgan said. “From the front lines to the supply lines, from the nursery to the classroom, to the care home and especially to the health-care workers across B.C. and everyone involved in the greatest mass immunization program in our history – we owe a debt of gratitude to so many. On behalf of all British Columbians, I wish to offer my most heartfelt thanks to those who have answered the call of duty and kept us safe.”