The start of a new session of the B.C. Parliament is always a busy and exciting time in Victoria.
The legislature is again buzzing with activity which started Feb. 10 with the Speech from the Throne, which outlined the government’s plan for the coming year, and was followed by the release of the provincial budget on Feb. 17.
We are proud of the fact that B.C. is the envy of other jurisdictions in Canada – we are the only government in Canada to deliver a budget surplus this year.
For that we can thank our province’s diversified economy. Unlike our neighbours in Alberta, which is impacted by the drop in world oil prices, demand for B.C.’s products internationally remains strong.
For example, since 2003 we have seen a 30-fold increase in the value of B.C. softwood lumber exports to China. That makes us less dependent on the U.S. market, which is still our largest customer for lumber.
Of particular interest to people in areas around Ashcroft is a promise in the budget to expand high-speed Internet to rural areas. This will give more people access to things such as online courses to further their education, and TeleHealth, which puts patients in rural and remote areas in touch with health professionals without having to travel great distances.
There is also help for children and families in this budget. As of Sept. 1, low-income single parents will get to keep every dollar of their child-support payments, additional funds have been provided for B.C. School Fruit and Vegetable Program, and an additional $250 children’s fitness equipment tax credit to take a bit of pressure off of parents.
We’ve always said our commitment to health care is world class, now we have confirmation. The Conference Board of Canada ranks B.C. No. 1 in Canada on health performance, and around the world only Switzerland and Sweden ranked higher than our province.
In short, life in British Columbia is good and getting better.
Jackie Tegart, MLA