Posts Tagged "government"

21Mar

Government acting to protect province’s most vulnerable during COVID-19 crisis

by admin

As British Columbians work to reduce the spread of the coronavirus, the Province is taking swift action to protect vulnerable people, including those experiencing homelessness, in communities around British Columbia.

Initial actions include:

  • a ban on evictions for non-payment of rent in BC Housing-funded buildings;
  • the development of distinct protocols and identification of sites to support isolation for vulnerable people experiencing homelessness – sheltered or unsheltered – and those in private single room occupancy (SROs) and social housing buildings;
  • sustaining service providers through continued payments to ensure they can pay their staff and operating costs; and
  • centralized procurement for critical supplies needed by frontline providers, including gloves and cleaning products.

“Frontline workers are working tirelessly to ensure that vulnerable residents are protected across the province, recognizing the significant added risks that vulnerable people face in the context of the COVID-19 crisis,” said Selina Robinson, Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing. “We are committed to making sure these frontline workers have the support they need to do their job – whether that’s in the form of safe spaces for people who need isolation or personal protective equipment for staff working in the field. We are all in this together.”

Recognizing that vulnerable people in different circumstances face distinct risks, a provincial Vulnerable Population Working Group is working to identify, assess and address the immediate challenges faced in particular by five groups – people living on the street, people experiencing homelessness living in encampments, shelter residents, tenants of private SROs and tenants in social and supportive housing buildings.

This working group includes representatives from the ministries of Municipal Affairs and Housing, Social Development and Poverty Reduction, Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation, Mental Health and Addictions, Children and Family Development, Health, as well as Emergency Management BC, the City of Vancouver, the Office of the Provincial Health Officer, local health authorities, BC Housing and Community Living BC.

Isolation protocols are being developed in partnership with local governments and health authorities based on the needs of vulnerable residents in each region. While in some situations self-isolation may be possible within a unit, additional locations have been identified throughout the province for those situations where off-site isolation of one or more people is required. In addition, recognizing that many providers have identified difficulty in sourcing necessary medical and cleaning supplies, BC Housing is now procuring personal protective equipment needed by frontline workers on a central basis and is distributing them directly to housing providers.

“While all of us are feeling the effects of the COVID-19 crisis, there is no doubt that our most vulnerable populations including the homeless and the working poor are disproportionately affected,” said Shane Simpson, Minister of Social Development and Poverty Reduction. “We are working together with our partners at every level of government and in the social services sector to find safe and efficient ways to provide supports to the people who need them the most as quickly as possible.” 

Recognizing that many residents may face challenges in making rent payments as a result of COVID-19, BC Housing has implemented a moratorium on eviction for non-payment of rent in their directly managed properties and is also working with non-profit housing providers around the province to do the same. In addition, the process of applying for a rent reduction is being streamlined for tenants who have lost income as a result of COVID-19, including changing the rules to remove the requirement for proof that the decrease in income is permanent.

People experiencing homelessness often have higher rates of health concerns, and as a result could be at greater risk if exposed to COVID-19. For that reason, enhanced screening and cleaning protocols are in place at residential facilities to reduce the potential that this virus can spread within the building and beyond. To support partners’ efforts, BC Housing is also working closely with the Ministry of Health, the provincial health officer, local health authorities, the BC Non-Profit Housing Association and the Aboriginal Housing Management Association to ensure non-profit providers can protect their guests and residents. This includes providing training and support in encouraging social distancing, best practices in building cleaning and maintenance, identification of on- and off-site isolation spaces, and access to testing and other services.  

Learn More:

For more information on BC Housing’s eviction and rent adjustment policy, visit: https://www.bchousing.org/publications/Covid-19-Bulletin-for-Housing-Providers-Eviction-and-Rent-Adjustment-Notification-March-18th-2020.pdf

A backgrounder follows.

19Feb

Tax the rich, spend on the poor: 3 years in, this is still an NDP government | CBC News

by admin

“Budgets are really about choices,” said Finance Minister Carole James, more than once, as she delivered her third budget as B.C.’s finance minister.

That being said, there were fewer choices to make in this budget than her first two. 

With over three-quarters of the NDP’s election platform already on the way, and a commitment to a balanced budget, there was always going to be little room to manoeuvre — even if reforms at ICBC and a slight slowdown in the provincial economy hadn’t taken place. 

But those did things happen, and it meant the government had a decision to make: how would it stay in the black without going back on spending commitments in the expensive health and education ministries? 

The answer was a new tax on the people making the most money in the province — giving the province its highest marginal tax rate (20.5 per cent for people making over $220,000) this century. 

“If you had taken al look at the past government, what often would happen at this time when you saw moderation in the economy, you’d see programs and services cut … we’re not doing that,” said James. 

“In order to do that, we’ve asked the top one per cent to pay a little bit more. We believe they’ve benefited from a strong economy, and we believe they can contribute a little bit more.”

Death by a thousand hikes? 

Not surprisingly, the B.C. Liberals feel that the top one per cent have already been asked to “contribute a little bit more” one too many times under this government, whether it be from income taxes, corporate taxes, employer health taxes or the school tax

“The lack of competitiveness when it comes to the tax regime, when it comes to regulations, is causing serious repetitional damages to British Columbia. People are choosing not to invest here,” said MLA Stephanie Cadieux. 

“When tax structures get too uncompetitive, people just leave,” echoed fellow B.C. Liberal MLA Shirley Bond.

It’s a message the Liberals have consistently made while in opposition, but which so far has had limited traction outside its base because the province continues to be among the nationwide leaders in GDP growth.  

At the same time, business groups are also becoming more critical of the government’s approach than they were earlier in its term. 

“If a couple years ago was death by a thousand cuts, it’s death by 10,000 cuts,” said Val Litwin, CEO of B.C.’s Chamber of Commerce. 

“The biggest missing piece today was a strategy around competitiveness … what we’re seeing form small to big businesses is a real paucity around an economic strategy.”

Optimism muted

An NDP government will take their lumps from the Chamber of Commerce when it comes to tax policy: distributing wealth to the most marginalized is an article of faith.  

At the same time, the budget disappointed a number of groups that have been supportive of the government to date. 

“They’ve kicked the can down the road a little bit,” said Jill Atkey, CEO of the B.C. Non-Profit Housing Association, who criticized the lack of new investments in new housing outside of commitments for more shelter and modular units. 

“This is a budget that’s not going to improve the situation.”

Several poverty advocate groups asked why there were no new commitments on disability or welfare rates. And Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart, himself a former NDP MP, expressed disappointment about the lack of news on drug policy or a Millennium Line extension to UBC. 

“We need bold investments … if we’re to continue to help power B.C.’s economy.” 

Of course, the longer you’re in office, the most people you’re likely to disappoint. 

But as the clock ticks closer to the next provincial election, James shows full confidence in what has been a consistent governing approach. 

“It’s my job to ensure the benefits of B.C.’s strong economy are felt by everybody,” she said, “not just those at the top.”

16Dec

Daphne Bramham: Self-governing pharmacists or government? Who should keep bad health professionals in line?

by admin


Last year, an estimated 15,400 British Columbians were using methadone as a treatment for opioid addiction.


Jason Payne / PNG

The disciplinary action taken against Diamondali Tejani paints a stark picture of the challenges that the College of Pharmacists of B.C. has had reining in bad operators.

Tejani finally had his registration suspended beginning Sept. 1 and has been forbidden from being a pharmacy manager, director, owner or shareholder in a pharmacy for two years and fined him $15,000 for what he did and didn’t do in 2016.

It was the third time he’d been disciplined. In 2012, his methadone dispensing privileges were suspended for 30 days, but there were no other details included in the college’s posting on its website.

In 2000, he was suspended for three weeks following his conviction in provincial court for tax evasion.

The cause for the most recent suspension dates back to between July 8 and Nov. 25, 2016. Tejani paid cash incentives to drug users to fill their daily dispensing orders.

As owner, manager and a pharmacist at Surrey’s Boston Pharmacy, the College also said he would have, or should have, known that a patient consultation was required every day.

That wasn’t the end of it. His staff didn’t enter or reverse daily dispense prescriptions on PharmaNet when the patient didn’t show up. Instead, they’d provide patients with missed doses and also dispensed several prescriptions without prescription labels.

Daily dispenses of methadone can be a lucrative business. British Columbia allows pharmacists to charge up to $10 for each prescription for up to three prescriptions each day. That’s in addition to the fees they collect for witnessing the ingestion of methadone.

The most recent figures show the total pharmacy costs for methadone maintenance for 13,894 patients was nearly $46 million in 2011/2012 — $40 million of which was paid by Pharmacare. Last year, an estimated 15,400 British Columbians were using methadone as a treatment for opioid addiction.

Providing methadone daily is lucrative enough that pharmacists like Tejani have actively courted business. Some still do.

Physicians, recovery house operators and recovering addicts have all told me about pharmacies offering incentives as well as threats.

The kickbacks include money to recovery house operators who insist on residents going to a particular pharmacy for their three daily dispenses and money or gifts to customers themselves.

I’ve been told about some recovery house operators threatening to evict residents unless they go to those pharmacies with their three daily scripts. I’ve heard physicians folding under pressure from patients who will be evicted unless they get daily scripts for methadone and usually a sleeping pill or an over-the-counter pain medication like naproxen (a.k.a. Aleve). Their justification? It’s better for recovering addicts to have a roof over their heads than be homeless.

The College gets those complaints. But many of the complaints are never filed because as several recovery home residents have told me, ‘Who’s going to believe an addict?’

The College’s members also haven’t always supported its actions. When the College passed a bylaw in 2013 to outlaw incentives, it resulted in a three year court battle with Safeway and Thrifty Foods who wanted prescriptions to be part of their loyalty rewards programs.

But the appellate court sided with the College and, finally, it was able to enforce the bylaws similar to what Quebec and Newfoundland and Labrador have had in place since 2008.

Still it’s fair to say that professionals’ ability to regulate themselves has been a long-standing issue here, dating back at least to a 2003 ombudsman’s report that found public trust lacking.

This April, British expert Harry Cayton filed a report to the government that recommended a new regulatory framework for health professionals that will significantly reduce their autonomy.

Instead of members electing half or two-thirds of college’s boards, the health minister would appoint them along with all the public members. All college boards would also be required to have equal numbers of professionals and members of the public.

The College of Pharmacists would be one of only five professional regulatory bodies because of its unique jurisdiction over drug schedules regulation and operation of pharmacies.

The others would be the two largest — the College of Physicians and Surgeons and the nurses. The other 15 would be lumped into two new colleges — one for oral and one for everything else from chiropractors to lab technicians to speech and hearing professionals.

Colleges would be overseen by a separate body that reports to the minister. Colleges would continue to investigate complaints, but another separate, independent panel appointed by the minister would make the disciplinary decisions.

Cayton also recommended firm time limits for each stage of investigations and the elimination of professionals’ ability to negotiate agreements/settlements late in the process.

The government is accepting online feedback until Jan. 10 Presumably after that, it will move ahead with changes.

Clearly, there are problems with the current system. But it’s an open question whether a complete overhaul will to lead to better quality services care or whether it will mean more government control and more bureaucracy.

dbramham@postmedia.com

Twitter: @bramham_daphne

 

7Dec

Broadbent pushes B.C. government for justice-based accessibility law

by admin


Shane Simpson, Minister of Social Development and Poverty Reduction, at a community consultation session for new accessibility legislation in Vancouver on Nov. 2, 2019.


Gerry Kahrmann / Postmedia News Files

As the B.C. government develops accessibility legislation, a left-wing think-tank is calling on policy-makers to consider how historical injustices and continuing discrimination have led to a society that still excludes the deaf and disabled.

From Sept. 16 to Nov. 29 of this year, the Ministry of Social Development and Poverty Reduction collected public feedback to help develop the new legislation it says will “guide government, persons with disabilities and the broader community to work together to identify, remove and prevent barriers.”

A framework shows how the legislation could work by including standards for service delivery, employment, information, communication and transportation. Minister Shane Simpson said he wants the legislation tabled in the fall of 2020.

The Broadbent Institute commissioned consultant Gabrielle Peters for its submission, which she said is focused on justice and rectifying decades of oppression and discrimination.

“I wrote this because we’re doing it wrong,” said Peters, a Vancouver writer with chronic health issues who uses a wheelchair.

“We have to change how we think about accessibility. We have to change who we think about in terms of accessibility, in order to start doing it right.”

The Broadbent submission first discusses the historical impacts of colonialism, eugenics, institutionalization and sterilization on deaf and disabled Canadians.

It then looks at how those experiences have led to deaf and disabled people being disproportionately represented among the poor, homeless and as victims of violence. They are excluded from education, employment and public and community life, and face barriers in the health care system, the submission says.

“Nearly half of all Human Rights complaints (49 per cent) in Canada are disability related,” Peters wrote. “Discrimination against disabled people is rampant while simultaneously being almost entirely invisible in the public discourse about discrimination.”

Broadbent makes 16 recommendations it says will help repair that damage, the first being the legislation should consider the phrase “nothing about us without us” by including “deaf and disabled British Columbians” in its name.

“Decisions about what was best for disabled people made by the province’s respected leaders resulted in the worst outcomes and a shameful period in this province’s history,” Peters wrote. “This new legislation must spell out whom it is for and what it is intended to begin to rectify and prevent.”

The second recommendation urges government to write legislation that goes beyond making B.C. “barrier-free,” and works to fight oppression. It recommends that government name ableism as the source of systemic oppression of disabled people and the cause of inaccessibility.

The third recommendation calls for the legislation to be intersectional. This would mean recognizing that class, race, religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity, and other aspects of a person’s identity and life experience are linked to various other systems of oppression that marginalize disabled people and make parts of B.C. society inaccessible to them.

The full submission can be read at broadbent.ca. Peters said she hopes it shows to readers that accessibility “isn’t a gift” to be handed to deaf and disabled people, but a human right that they’ve been denied.

The submission also features contributions from harm reduction policy specialist Karen Ward and from urban planner Amina Yasin, who write about racism, ableism and the built environment.

Maria Dobrinskaya, B.C. director for Broadbent, said the submission’s justice-based approach could guide other ministries in their approaches to housing policy, municipal bylaws, transit and other issues.

Government may choose not to implement all 16 recommendations, Dobrinskaya said. But she is pleased the submission will reach the desks of Minister Simpson and other policy-makers, adding that “it’s important that it’s on the record.”

“I think it is very broad in its scope,” she said. “I’m hopeful though, that the comprehensive nature of the approach that we took helps to inform more specific focus on policy that the ministry will be looking at.”

The federal government passed Canada’s first national accessibility legislation in May, meant to “identify, remove and prevent” accessibility barriers in areas that fall under federal jurisdiction. Those include built environments, federally run programs and services, banking, telecommunications and transportation that crosses provincial lines.

That legislation, however, doesn’t address barriers within provincial jurisdiction. Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec and Nova Scotia have passed accessibility laws, and Newfoundland and Labrador are developing their own, too.

But B.C. — where more than 926,000 people older than 15 have some form of disability — has lagged behind.

neagland@postmedia.com

twitter.com/nickeagland

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20Nov

Ian Mulgrew: Government in denial over medicare crisis

by admin

The B.C. government just doesn’t want to admit how wide and deep the crisis of waiting for diagnostic and surgical services in this province really is.

After three years of legal wrangling, the final summations in the marathon B.C. Supreme Court medicare constitutional trial are making clear the length and seriousness of health care lineups in B.C.

How threadbare is the government’s defence?

It boils down to little more than don’t blame us — it’s those greedy doctors who don’t act appropriately, exaggerate their waiting times and fail to hire good office staff or those patients who don’t follow the best self-help
 advice.

The government even insists the detailed data it has been collecting for more than a decade from every B.C> hospital on every surgery shouldn’t be trusted.

In the landmark challenge over provisions of the Medicare Protection Act that curtail access to private care, the plaintiffs’ lawyers this week are reviewing the mountain of evidence that has been presented.

And it is damning.

Lawyer Selina Gyawali enunciated the harms caused by the lengthy queues for diagnostic and surgical services — potential risks to life 
and long-term heal, pain, disability.

As everyone who has suffered waiting for treatment can attest, it isn’t just a matter of inconvenience or impatience.

“Waiting for medically necessary treatment causes emotional and psychological distress and prolonged physical suffering, creates dependence and 
immobility, and leads to risks of permanent physical degeneration and of death in 
the case of life-threatening conditions,” Gyawali told Justice John Steeves.

Yet in spite of benchmarks and targets for treatment having been set and refined over a generation, the province isn’t meeting them.

Gyawali pointed out Victoria’s own witnesses testified and the data showed that B.C. has failed and continues to fail to provide medically necessary care within its targets. Thousands of patients are routinely waiting beyond the maximum acceptable waiting times for their procedures, across all priority areas, every year, she said. The data for all surgical specialties across all priorities shows that B.C. patients frequently wait many months for a consultation and many months for surgery.

“These failures continue in the face of a 20-year government effort across different federal and provincial governments to address the issue of patients waiting too long for medical care in the 
public health care system,” she added.

Government lawyers, however, throughout have tried to suggest “there really isn’t a universally accepted method of establishing wait-list benchmarks.”

They played down the significance of the waits by referring to them as being “non-emergency” surgeries and cast aspersions on the Surgical Patient Registry that tracks every operation.

The government, which parses waiting time into different phases, does not publicly report but collects the time it takes to see a specialist, called Wait 1, or the time lined up for diagnostic testing (Wait 3), though the wait for each of these can be many months.

The main performance measure is from the patient’s decision to have the operation until surgery (Wait 2), which represents only part of the actual time awaiting treatment.

“Although the defendant’s witnesses could not identify any established problems with the Wait 1 and Wait 3 times, the province repeatedly claimed that it is not reliable,” Gyawali noted.

“It has not, however, done anything to test or correct the anecdotal claims of unreliability. By claiming that the information is unreliable, the government can justify not reporting or using the information. Obviously, these numbers would show even longer wait times.”

From the patient’s perspective, the wait begins with a referral from the general practitioner to a specialist, the time to an appointment with the specialist, the delay while diagnostic procedures are performed and lasts until treatment by the specialist.

Still, the data across all specialties and priorities between 2011 and 2017 show well over 30,000 patients (or more than 40 per cent) were waiting beyond the target on the last day of the last quarter of each year, Gyawali told Steeves.

Between 2011 and 2017, more than 16,000 patients (more than 22 per cent) were waiting each year beyond the longest maximum acceptable wait time of 26 weeks. Even for serious 
procedures like hip replacements and cancer therapies, a 2018 report showed fewer patients were receiving treatment and those who did were waiting longer.

“This counters the B.C. government defensive suggestion that while wait times continue to be unacceptably long, the number of procedures performed is increasing,” Gyawali said.

As he has throughout, government lawyer Jonathan Penner objected to pretty well all of it.

“All right,” Steeves said. “Well, I hope I made it clear 
before that I am not going to do a forensic 
accounting of the hundreds of thousands of 
surgeries in this province, so — and as our 
recent exchange, I’m not sure it matters.”

“The document I’ve actually been 
able to present to you was a document tendered for 
the truth of its contents and it’s a ministry 
document,” Gyawali replied.

“The document agreement was very 
clear,” Penner complained. “The truth of the contents relates to 
facts, not opinion. This is expert opinion.”

This wasn’t anyone’s opinion, it was the government’s own data.

“What is clear from this data is 
that despite all the initiatives undertaken by the federal government, the province, and health 
authorities and the physicians, since the Chaoulli decision in 2005 and in particular over the past 
several years in B.C., there has been no meaningful 
progress in reducing wait times, even for the 
focused procedures such as hip and knee 
replacements and colonoscopies,” Gyawali concluded.

“It is clear that 
the government will never provide the timely 
diagnostic and surgical services that each and 
every patient needs to alleviate their suffering and protect their health.”

The summations continue.

imulgrew@postmedia.com

twitter.com/ianmulgrew

11Nov

Rob Shaw: Should the NDP government go big if it is pushed into a deficit?

by admin

VICTORIA — Finance Minister Carole James is scrambling behind the scenes to keep B.C.’s budget from slipping into the red.

But some New Democrat supporters must be wondering if it’s even worth the hassle, in light of the recent federal election.

Voters there issued a collective shrug to the idea of years of government deficits, as long as the money would ease the cost pressures they are facing on all sides, from housing affordability to child care and health care.

Parties that had no plans to curtail deficit spending captured more than 55 per cent of the popular vote collectively. And only three per cent of uncommitted voters in an Angus Reid poll before voting day last month said debt and deficits were a top issue.

But back in B.C., James and the New Democrat government are still scrounging for every penny to keep their budget in the black.

The province’s second quarter financial results, to be released later this month, are expected to show James’s razor-thin $179-million surplus forecast under siege by a softening economy, slowing housing market, collapsing forestry sector and the roaring financial dumpster fire that is the Insurance Corp of B.C.

It may still be possible to keep the books balanced this year by blowing out contingency funds and cutting discretionary spending.

But what about next year’s budget, set to be tabled in February?

James is scraping that together right now as well. You can imagine what kind of miserly money management will be required to eke out a small surplus in the current circumstances — not to mention with the looming threat of a $1-billion court challenge to ICBC caps on minor injury claims.

It’s going to be ugly.

NDP supporters hoping to see accelerated $10-a-day child care, more money for unionized workers, and big boosts to core services like education, health care, welfare, disability and shelter rates can kiss those dreams goodbye. 

All of which presents a dilemma for the government.

Does it want to spend the final two years of its mandate talking about prudence, caution, AAA credit ratings and all the other budgetary catchphrases famously uttered by the previous Liberal government as it wrestled away bus passes from the disabled and maternity benefits from low-income mothers in the name of modest surpluses?

Or does it embrace a deficit?

On its surface, that’s dangerous territory for New Democrats who have spent 16 years being painted by the B.C. Liberals as reckless financial managers for deficit budgets in the 1990s.

But again, look to last month’s federal campaign. Polls pointed to voter priorities of affordability, cost of living, climate change and health care — coincidentally, many of the central planks of the B.C. NDP’s 2017 election promises that won over urban voters in Metro Vancouver.


Finance Minister Carole James delivers the last provincial budget in the legislature. She’s struggling to keep it balanced as economic growth cools.

CHAD HIPOLITO /

THE CANADIAN PRESS FILES

Perhaps there is a third option for the B.C. NDP government.

It doesn’t just slide into a small deficit while kicking, screaming and cutting the same services it promised the last election to increase. It uses the deficit as an opportunity to unshackle itself and make strategic investments in affordability programs with tangible benefits for cash-strapped British Columbians.

One option could be to immediately implement the $10-a-day child care plan that was a centrepiece of the last election but is set to be phased in over a decade.

That could cost as much as $1.5 billion. Would thousands of parents care about a $1.5 billion provincial government deficit if they stood to save hundreds of dollars a month in child care fees?

The same could be asked about a radical housing affordability plan. Or a resurrected renter’s rebate, aggressive electric vehicle subsidies, major boosts to transit, or funding for new family doctors.

Besides, the NDP knows that no matter what it does it’s going to be attacked by the Liberals for “killing the economy,” as Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson recently tweeted.

At least by picking an issue to hang the deficit on, the NDP would be daring the Liberals to campaign against it in the next election — whether that be scrapping the $10 a day child care program, or something else.

If Premier John Horgan is actually considering bold deficit spending, he’s not letting on.

“We have a downturn in the economy that is affecting the global economy, not just B.C.,” Horgan said when asked earlier this month.

“But I have read two banking reports this week that continue to show B.C. leading the country in economic growth.

“We are going to continue to do our best to protect services, first and foremost, and ensure that we can continue to keep our books balanced.”

Economists are split on the idea.

“Even if you get up to a deficit of a couple of billion of dollars, in the context of the B.C. economy, you’re looking at less than two thirds of one per cent of GDP and that’s still a relatively modest deficit that is not something to worry about,” said Alex Hemingway, an economist at the left-leaning Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives.

In the long-term, government should find additional revenue, said Hemingway. But some immediate deficit spending on key items like housing and child care could actually produce economic returns, he said.

“Those are investments that can actually pay off in a big way in the long term,” said Hemingway. “So I think you can just as easily argue that it’s economic folly not to not to make those investments where those social needs are real.”

Jock Finlayson, executive vice-president at the right-leaning B.C. Business Council, said the NDP’s budgets are already “poised on a knife’s edge” and the real solution is to craft an economic development plan.

“If you have a severe economic downtown, then running a budget deficit is much more defensible,” he said. “We’re not in that position. We have an economy still growing. It’s not growing as fast as it was two or three years ago, but it’s still growing above the Canadian average.

“The second conundrum is that you’re talking about things like forest revenue being down, ICBC financial challenges, these are sort of transitory, they are not permanent necessarily. But to start enriching ongoing social programs and the social safety net, then you are hardwiring permanent cost increases into what government does.”

Difficult choices for an NDP government staring at the back half of its mandate. But choices that may ultimately determine whether voters give the party a second term in control of the provincial purse strings.

rshaw@postmedia.com

twitter.com/robshaw_vansun

7Oct

Daphne Bramham: Elizabeth May looking ahead to how Greens might influence a minority government

by admin

Elizabeth May is surprisingly cheerful for an environmental crusader worried that the civilization may be on the brink of collapse by the time her 43-year-old daughter reaches May’s own age of 65.

It’s because after being a party of one for eight years in Parliament and only graduating to a party of two earlier this year, the Green party leader says this federal election — her fourth — feels different.

Support is coming in unexpected places, she says forcing her to run something closer to a truly national campaign and visit ridings that weren’t previously on her itinerary.

The polls reflect some of that. May has the highest approval rating of the leaders on the CBC’s Leader Meter.

Her party’s support has nearly doubled in the past year to close to 10 per cent, which would translate into anywhere from one to eight seats with four seats being the consensus prediction.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U5XFIb8P_Do?version=3&rel=1&fs=1&autohide=2&showsearch=0&showinfo=1&iv_load_policy=1&wmode=transparent

But the Greens have been here before. They polled at close to 10 per cent in 2010 long before the prospect of a dystopian future drove tens of thousands of Canadians into the streets last month.

Many of those marchers, like the climate strike’s founder Greta Thunberg, are too young to vote and are too young to be surveyed about voting intentions in Canada’s upcoming federal election.

As a politician, May laughingly told The Vancouver Sun’s editorial board that she should be talking about measuring for new curtains in the prime minister’s resident in anticipation of moving in.

But she’s a pragmatist and what is within reach in 2019 is holding the balance of power — or the balance of responsibility, as she describes it — in a minority government.

Unlike the B.C. Green party, May would make no deals to support either the Conservatives or the Liberals.

She’d use her few seats as a club to force the prime minister to either bend policies — especially on the environment — to something closer to the Greens’ platform or she’d bring down the government.

For many, the Greens’ plan is scary, requiring radical and fundamental changes to retool the Canadian economy, its social programs and even individuals’ expectations and habits.

May admits that.

By 2030, her plan would cut carbon emissions by 60 per cent from the 2005 levels, limiting temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius above global pre-industrial averages. Within a decade, a Green Canada would be fully powered by renewable energy.

Quoting an October 2018 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report, May says it’s all do-able and that the needed technology already exists to avoid going above 1.5 degrees C.

Citing a National Research Council projection, the Greens’ platform says four million jobs would be created in energy efficiency retrofits compared with the 62,000 Canadians working in oil and gas in 2018.

But May admits some will disappear and talks about a “just transition” for workers that would include more education spending, bridging of some workers to early retirement and a guaranteed livable income, which would replace and build on disability payments, social assistance and income supplements.

“It’s a tough choice and I’m not saying that people will never sacrifice,” May said. “But we’re talking about whether our children are able to have anything above a deteriorating human civilization all around them …

“A functioning human civilization is at risk within the lifetime of my daughter to be able to have basic elements of a functioning human society.”

But if the Greens hold the balance of power in a post-Oct. 21 Parliament, it’s not just the environmental agenda that may influence new legislation.

May frequently references the 1960s minority government of Liberal Prime Minister Lester Pearson that with support of the NDP (then named the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation), which resulted in universal health care, the Canada Pension Plan, unemployment insurance and the flag (which, bizarrely, was the most controversial).

So beyond an improved climate plan, what do the Greens want? Proportional representation rather than a first-past-the-post voting system has always been high on its list both federally and provincially. The Liberals promised it in 2015 and reneged. A Liberal minority government might be willing to rethink that.

The Greens’ platform calls for decriminalization of drug possession and access to “a safe, screened supply.” The Conservatives have resolutely said no, while the Liberals have said no for now.

May is actively supporting Wilson-Raybould’s bid to win re-election as an Independent in Vancouver-Granville. Wilson-Raybould was forced out of the Liberal Party after she publicly accused Justin Trudeau and his staff of inappropriately pressuring her to stop the prosecution of engineering giant SNC-Lavalin.

The only reason there is a Green candidate in that riding is because running the party’s constitution requires one in every federal riding.

But would May be willing to bring down the new government — Liberal or Conservative — if it agreed to negotiate a deferred prosecution agreement?

May could play a pivotal role in forging a better response to the climate emergency and even help return Canada to a leadership role if she can muster the kind of patience, diplomacy and intelligence that NDP leader Tommy Douglas exercised in the 1960s.

And if she can’t? Well, we’ll have another election sooner rather than later and by then, at least some of those climate-striking kids will have reached voting age.

dbramham@postmedia.com

Twitter.com/bramham_daphne

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23Sep

Province funds local government poverty reduction strategies

by admin

Local governments are being supported in developing local poverty reduction strategies to lift people up, break the cycle of poverty and build a better B.C. for everyone.

As part of TogetherBC, British Columbia’s Poverty Reduction Strategy, the Province is providing $5 million to the Union of British Columbia Municipalities (UBCM) for the Poverty Reduction Planning & Action program. Interested communities can apply for funding to support local initiatives and plans that will help B.C. reduce the overall poverty rate by 25% and the child poverty rate by 50% by 2024.

“Local governments see the impacts of poverty in their communities from the front lines,” said Shane Simpson, Minister of Social Development and Poverty Reduction. “These grants are an opportunity for our government to work with municipalities and community organizations in identifying their most pressing local issues and developing local solutions in the fight against poverty.”

New projects will be funded that focus on one or more of TogetherBC’s priority actions areas, including:

  • housing;
  • families;
  • children and youth;
  • education and training;
  • employment;
  • income; and
  • social supports.

Projects must involve key community partners, such as community-based poverty reduction organizations, people with lived experience of poverty, businesses, local First Nations or Indigenous organizations.

“Local governments have long advocated for a comprehensive approach to address the reality of poverty in B.C. communities,” said Coun. Murry Krause, UBCM past president. “This new funding program helps to advance TogetherBC’s priorities and will strengthen local co-ordination and implementation of poverty reduction plans.”

In June 2019, the Province announced $6 million for the Social Planning and Research Council of B.C. to fund Homelessness Community Action Grants for local projects aimed at reducing and preventing homelessness provincewide. These two granting streams are part of the Province’s proactive approach to making homelessness brief and rare, and helping people break the cycle of poverty.

Delivering on the Poverty Reduction Strategy is a shared priority between government and the BC Green Party caucus, and is part of the Confidence and Supply Agreement.

Quick Facts:

  • Applications for the Poverty Reduction & Action program will be open until Feb. 28, 2020.
  • Municipalities and regional districts can partner and apply with other local governments for regional grants.
  • The program includes two streams of funding:
    • up to $25,000 to develop or update poverty reduction assessments or plans; and
    • up to $50,000 to undertake local poverty reduction projects.
    • For regional applications, the funding maximum for both streams is $150,000.
  • British Columbia has one of the highest rates of poverty in the country and has for decades. B.C. also has the second-highest overall poverty rate in Canada.

Learn More:

To apply for Poverty Reduction Planning & Action Program grants:
https://www.ubcm.ca/EN/main/funding/lgps.html

To apply for a Homelessness Community Action Grant, visit:
https://www.sparc.bc.ca/resources/homelessness-community-action-grants/

TogetherBC, British Columbia’s Poverty Reduction Strategy:
https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/governments/about-the-bc-government/poverty-reduction-strategy

5Sep

B.C. government expands biosimilar drug program to Crohn’s, colitis patients

by admin

https://vancouversun.com/


B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix in a file photo.


Francis Georgian / PNG

The British Columbia government says it’s expanding its substitute drug program to include 1,700 patients with diseases such as Crohn’s and colitis.

Health Minister Adrian Dix says biosimilars, which are cheaper alternatives to name-brand drugs, have worked well in other countries and the province will be saving about $96.6 million to be put back into health care over three years.

Biosimilars are highly similar versions of bioengineered drugs known as biologics, and there are 17 such products approved for sale in Canada.

Bioengineered medicine is the single biggest expense for public drug plans; in 2018, B.C. spent $125 million to treat chronic conditions such as diabetes, arthritis and Crohn’s disease.

In January, the province made a three-year, $105-million investment to help low-income British Columbians get access to the drugs.

The initial program announced in May saw over 20,000 British Columbians move their prescription from the biologic to biosimilar drugs.

25Jul

B.C. government seeks public feedback on reducing plastic waste

by admin

Don’t forget to reduce, reuse, recycle and reply with your feedback.

The B.C. government is asking the public to weigh in on how the province can cut down on plastics and improve recycling in an effort to protect B.C.’s waterways and environment.

Among the proposed actions the government is considering are bans on single-use packaging, requiring producers to shoulder more responsibility for plastic products, expanding the recycling refund program and reducing plastic waste across all product categories and industries.


Vancouver, BC: JUNE 08, 2019 –– Colunteers clean-up plastics and other refuse scraps from the shoreline at Second Beach in Vancouver, B.C.’s Stanley Park Saturday, June 8, 2019. Volunteers from the Vancouver Surfrider Foundation scoured local beaches Saturday as part of the Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup initiative.

Jason Payne /

PNG

“The message from British Columbians is loud and clear — we need to take action to reduce plastic waste, especially single-use items like water bottles and plastic bags that often find their way into our waters, streets and environment,” said Environment Minister George Heyman in a statement.

“We have all seen the striking images of animals and fish being caught up in everyday plastic waste like grocery bags or beer can loops that ensnare these beautiful creatures and it cannot continue. I look forward to hearing from people about how we can all play a part in reducing plastic pollution and plastics use overall.”

Currently, B.C. has 22 recycling programs — more than any other North American jurisdiction — that cover 14 product categories of consumer products. Those include packaging, electronics, residual solvents, beverage containers, tires and hazardous wastes.

Those programs collect about 315,000 tonnes of plastics annually.

The feedback will help inform things like the reach of a single-use plastics ban, and determining any necessary exemptions for reasons of health, safety and accessibility; possible changes to B.C.’s current recycling program and changes to the deposit-refund fee structure; as well as the possibility of an electronic refund system for empty bottle refunds.

The public can read the proposals in detail and fill out the online survey at cleanbc.ca/plastics.


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