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5Apr

Government supports access to free menstrual products for students, people in need

by admin

Under a ministerial order that was issued Friday, April 5, 2019, all B.C. public schools will be required to provide free menstrual products for students in school washrooms by the end of 2019.

In issuing the order, Education Minister Rob Fleming said it’s time to normalize and equalize access to menstrual products in schools, helping to create a better learning environment for students.

“Students should never have to miss school, extracurricular, sports or social activities because they can’t afford or don’t have access to menstrual products,” said Fleming, adding that current research indicates that one in seven students has missed school due to their periods because they cannot afford products.

“This is a common-sense step forward that is, frankly, long overdue. We look forward to working with school districts and communities to make sure students get the access they need with no stigma and no barriers.”

The ministerial order – which takes effect immediately but allows districts until the end of 2019 to comply – comes with $300,000 in provincial startup funding. Over the coming months, the ministry will continue to work with school districts, community and education partners to look at the needs of each district, identify gaps and ensure they have the funding needed to meet this new requirement.

In addition, government is also providing a one-time grant of $95,000 to support the United Way Period Promise Research Project, to fund menstrual products for up to 10 non-profit agencies and research into how best to provide services and products for people who menstruate.

“The cost and availability of menstrual products is a real concern for those who are poor and often face the choice of purchasing those products or buying other essentials, like food,” said Shane Simpson, Minister of Social Development and Poverty Reduction. “I encourage other organizations to join our government in supporting the Period Promise campaign, to help end the stigma that causes social isolation, and begin to address that larger issue around affordability.”

“Having your period is a part of life, and easy and affordable access to menstrual products should be simple,” said Mitzi Dean, Parliamentary Secretary for Gender Equity. “Menstrual products should be available to people when and where they need them, which is why we’re improving access in schools and in communities. These actions are going to make a big difference in the lives of people who menstruate, and I’m proud that our government is taking leadership on this issue.”

The United Way funding builds on the work government is doing to reduce poverty in British Columbia. In March 2019, the B.C. government released TogetherBC, the Province’s first Poverty Reduction Strategy. TogetherBC brings together investments from across government that will help reduce overall poverty in the province by 25%, and cut child poverty in half, over the next five years.

Quotes:

Glen Hansman, president, B.C. Teachers’ Federation –

“By ensuring school districts make menstrual products free and accessible to all students who need them, the government is taking an important action towards improving equity in our schools. There are many reasons why students need access to menstrual products at school. Many of our members can share stories of students who have felt shame or embarrassment, or have even gone home, because they did not have access to a tampon or pad or could not afford one. Today’s announcement will also help deal with what the United Way’s Period Promise campaign calls ‘period poverty.’ I want to thank the Minister of Education and this government, as well as those working on the United Way campaign, for making this announcement today.”

Mark Gifford, chair, New Westminster Schools Board of Education

“Our board is proud to have led the way in breaking down barriers and ensuring access to free menstrual products in all of our schools. It’s a basic gender-equity issue and our work helps ensure female and transgender students can manage normal bodily functions without stigma, cost, or disruptions to their learning. We are thrilled with the minister’s announcement today and applaud such swift action in support of advancing a fundamental right of access across the province.”

Andrea Sinclair, president, B.C. Confederation of Parent Advisory Councils –

“This is a long-standing ‘hidden and unspoken’ problem for students who need menstrual products. There continues to be stigma surrounding this, which causes unnecessary anxiety and reduced confidence for students, including reduced attendance. We need to remove the barriers to access, eliminate the stigma and normalize the conversation for student well-being. We are encouraged by this action and fully support it. Today’s announcement is another example of the ministry listening and acting for the best interest of students.”

Michael McKnight, president and CEO, United Way of the Lower Mainland

“The inspiring support United Way’s Period Promise campaign has received demonstrates the impact we create when we mobilize to address issues in our own neighbourhoods. I want to thank the Government of B.C. for its commitment to tackling period poverty, and thank the passionate individuals tackling vulnerability and isolation in all its forms, in our local communities.”

Sussanne Skidmore, secretary-treasurer, BC Federation of Labour, volunteer co-chair of United Way’s Period Promise campaign –

“The community and government response to the issue of period poverty has been incredible. The hundreds of thousands of donated menstrual products we’ve received will make a concrete difference in people’s lives, and with support from the Government of B.C., we can also create change on a wider scale, long-term.”

Learn More:

Participate in the United Way Period Promise campaign: https://www.uwlm.ca/

Read TogetherBC: B.C.’s Poverty Reduction Strategy: https://www.gov.bc.ca/TogetherBC 


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26Mar

‘Not a job for old people’: Doc series shines spotlight on B.C. paramedics

by admin


A Vancouver paramedic specialist with advanced training tends to a heart failure patient, en route to St. Paul’s Hospital. The scene is in the last episode of a new documentary series on Knowledge Network, Paramedics: Life on the Line. It premieres April 2.


TBA / PNG

After the success of its documentary series on life and death in the emergency room, the Knowledge Network wasted no time commissioning a riveting “prequel” consisting of 10 episodes on paramedics working throughout the Lower Mainland.

The series, which streams online and on television April 2, won’t disappoint those craving insight into the jobs and personalities of 911 call takers, dispatchers and the paramedics who race to scenes in their “moving emergency rooms.”

As many already know, ambulance drivers frequently encounter distracted pedestrians looking down at their cellphones as they cross streets, oblivious to speeding ambulances with lights and sirens, not to mention drivers who take far too long to get out of the way. The producers even made a short video calling attention to bad drivers.

It’s just one exasperating part of the job.

“Threading the needle” is the term one ambulance driver uses to describe the precarious weaving (“c’mon kid, I’m not skiing”) to manoeuvre through traffic. A dash cam installed by the film company partner, Lark Productions, captures the driver’s candid banter with her colleague as she aggressively steps on the gas and quips: “It’s fun driving fast with lights and sirens, let’s be honest.”

Those who’ve opined that such health professionals must be adrenalin junkies thriving on chaos will also observe how calm the call takers and paramedics appear as they’re taking information from people in medical crises and rushing to the scene of gruesome accidents to provide care to those in need.

The series reinforces the understanding that the work takes a huge toll, both physically and emotionally. Post-traumatic stress disorder was the focus of a CBC documentarybut the physical toll, especially on the musculoskeletal system, is also harsh and a common cause of days off work.

“I’ve been doing this for 25 years. I’m hoping to make it to retirement in about six years if my body holds up. It’s no job for old people,” said one paramedic in an episode titled No Occupation for Old Men.

Ironically, there is no mandatory retirement age for paramedics and many work well into their 60s, according to B.C. Emergency Health Services.

British Columbia's first report on road safety recommends a speed limit of 30 kilometres an hour in urban areas to reduce deaths among pedestrians and cyclists.


Knowledge Network shines the spotlight on paramedics.

RICHARD LAM /

Vancouver Sun

They eat on the go, wolfing down a sandwich or an ice cream with one hand while deftly steering ambulances with the other. They use deadpan sarcasm and droll humour to lighten the mood. And they must have good chemistry and trust with their shift partners.

There are only two deaths shown in 10 episodes of the docuseries. The paramedics on the scene of one cardiac arrest try everything to save the male and even call a hospital doctor to verify there’s nothing they’ve missed.

“Death is part of life, we’re all gonna die one day,” a paramedic says as a body is covered with a flannel sheet. It was one of at least 17 calls he had responded to during the 12-hour shift.

Viewers might find themselves frustrated by not knowing what happens to patients, like the East Vancouver woman who encountered a complication during a midwife-assisted water birth at home or the 46-year-old heart failure patient waiting to go on a heart transplant wait list.

That sentiment is often shared by the paramedics themselves, said Erin Haskett, a Lark Productions series executive producer. Many expressed frustration that they often don’t learn the outcomes of their cases after patients are handed off to hospital teams.

The series took 130 days of filming from December 2017 to June 2018. The 10 episodes are each under an hour but 1,500 hours of filming was done, often by crews embedded in ambulances at all hours of the day and night. Patients were asked for consent to film before they were handed off to the hospital and again after.

While rural paramedics were left out because of logistical challenges, about 40 of those working in Vancouver, North Vancouver, Burnaby Richmond and Surrey are featured. There are about 3,800 paramedics with various levels of credentials and 300 dispatch staff working for B.C. Emergency Health Services across the province.

Linda Lupini, executive vice-president of BCEHS, said the agency was reluctant to participate in the series.

“Initially we didn’t want to do this and we actually spent a few years talking to Knowledge Network about our concerns about logistics, about patient privacy, etc. So we hired a legal analyst and a top privacy expert. They came up with a lengthy list of things to ensure everyone met all the requests.”

There are numerous tricks used by the show’s editors to obscure locations and identities. In some cases street signs are even switched in the editing process and passersby who were on foot are shown on bicycles.

Among the incidents included in the series are a sexual assault call, a baby in respiratory distress, a cyclist hit by a car, a truck-bus crash, a fall at a construction site, an overdose at a SkyTrain station and an unconscious restaurant customer.

“I call our health professionals the first-first responders,” said Lupini. “People who watch this series will see their incredible compassion and patience. They often don’t get the recognition they deserve and I think this is a powerful way to showcase that.”

Viewers may be left wondering why anyone would want a job that takes such a toll on the human spirit. Lupini acknowledges she worried, initially, that the authentic conversations paramedics have about their work might deter people from entering the profession.

“In the series, paramedics talk about why they love their jobs but they also speak honestly about the challenges,” she said.

[email protected]

Twitter: @MedicineMatters




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26Mar

“Not a job for old people” — documentary series shines spotlight on paramedics

by admin


A Vancouver paramedic specialist with advanced training tends to a heart failure patient, en route to St. Paul’s Hospital. The scene is in the last episode of a new documentary series on Knowledge Network, Paramedics: Life on the Line. It premieres April 2.


TBA / PNG

After the success of its documentary series on life and death in the emergency room, the Knowledge Network wasted no time commissioning a riveting “prequel” consisting of 10 episodes on paramedics working throughout the Lower Mainland.

The series, which streams online and on television April 2, won’t disappoint those craving insight into the jobs and personalities of 911 call takers, dispatchers and the paramedics who race to scenes in their “moving emergency rooms.”

As many already know, ambulance drivers frequently encounter distracted pedestrians looking down at their cellphones as they cross streets, oblivious to speeding ambulances with lights and sirens, not to mention drivers who take far too long to get out of the way. The producers even made a short video calling attention to bad drivers.

It’s just one exasperating part of the job.

“Threading the needle” is the term one ambulance driver uses to describe the precarious weaving (“c’mon kid, I’m not skiing”) to manoeuvre through traffic. A dash cam installed by the film company partner, Lark Productions, captures the driver’s candid banter with her colleague as she aggressively steps on the gas and quips: “It’s fun driving fast with lights and sirens, let’s be honest.”

Those who’ve opined that such health professionals must be adrenalin junkies thriving on chaos will also observe how calm the call takers and paramedics appear as they’re taking information from people in medical crises and rushing to the scene of gruesome accidents to provide care to those in need.

The series reinforces the understanding that the work takes a huge toll, both physically and emotionally. Post-traumatic stress disorder was the focus of a CBC documentary but the physical toll, especially on the musculoskeletal system, is also harsh and a common cause of days off work.

“I’ve been doing this for 25 years. I’m hoping to make it to retirement in about six years if my body holds up. It’s no job for old people,” said one paramedic in an episode titled No Occupation for Old Men.

Ironically, there is no mandatory retirement age for paramedics and many work well into their 60s, according to B.C. Emergency Health Services.

British Columbia's first report on road safety recommends a speed limit of 30 kilometres an hour in urban areas to reduce deaths among pedestrians and cyclists.


Knowledge Network shines the spotlight on paramedics.

RICHARD LAM /

Vancouver Sun

They eat on the go, wolfing down a sandwich or an ice cream with one hand while deftly steering ambulances with the other. They use deadpan sarcasm and droll humour to lighten the mood. And they must have good chemistry and trust with their shift partners.

There are only two deaths shown in 10 episodes of the docuseries. The paramedics on the scene of one cardiac arrest try everything to save the male and even call a hospital doctor to verify there’s nothing they’ve missed.

“Death is part of life, we’re all gonna die one day,” a paramedic says as a body is covered with a flannel sheet. It was one of at least 17 calls he had responded to during the 12-hour shift.

Viewers might find themselves frustrated by not knowing what happens to patients, like the East Vancouver woman who encountered a complication during a midwife-assisted water birth at home or the 46-year-old heart failure patient waiting to go on a heart transplant wait list.

That sentiment is often shared by the paramedics themselves, said Erin Haskett, a Lark Productions series executive producer. Many expressed frustration that they often don’t learn the outcomes of their cases after patients are handed off to hospital teams.

The series took 130 days of filming from December 2017 to June 2018. The 10 episodes are each under an hour but 1,500 hours of filming was done, often by crews embedded in ambulances at all hours of the day and night. Patients were asked for consent to film before they were handed off to the hospital and again after.

While rural paramedics were left out because of logistical challenges, about 40 of those working in Vancouver, North Vancouver, Burnaby Richmond and Surrey are featured. There are about 3,800 paramedics with various levels of credentials and 300 dispatch staff working for B.C. Emergency Health Services across the province.

Linda Lupini, executive vice-president of BCEHS, said the agency was reluctant to participate in the series.

“Initially we didn’t want to do this and we actually spent a few years talking to Knowledge Network about our concerns about logistics, about patient privacy, etc. So we hired a legal analyst and a top privacy expert. They came up with a lengthy list of things to ensure everyone met all the requests.”

There are numerous tricks used by the show’s editors to obscure locations and identities. In some cases street signs are even switched in the editing process and passersby who were on foot are shown on bicycles.

Among the incidents included in the series are a sexual assault call, a baby in respiratory distress, a cyclist hit by a car, a truck-bus crash, a fall at a construction site, an overdose at a SkyTrain station and an unconscious restaurant customer.

“I call our health professionals the first-first responders,” said Lupini. “People who watch this series will see their incredible compassion and patience. They often don’t get the recognition they deserve and I think this is a powerful way to showcase that.”

Viewers may be left wondering why anyone would want a job that takes such a toll on the human spirit. Lupini acknowledges she worried, initially, that the authentic conversations paramedics have about their work might deter people from entering the profession.

“In the series, paramedics talk about why they love their jobs but they also speak honestly about the challenges,” she said.

[email protected]

Twitter: @MedicineMatters

 




Source link

20Mar

B.C. government doubling grant funding to provide low-cost dental care to more people

by admin

Twenty-four not-for-profit dental clinics around the province will have their annual operating support from the British Columbia government doubled, helping them provide a mix of free and low-cost dental care to people living in poverty.

The $3.6 million in funding over three years, which includes $2 million to upgrade dental equipment in the clinics, comes just days after the Province launched TogetherBC, B.C.’s first-ever poverty reduction strategy.

“Too often, people living in poverty cannot afford to take proper care of their teeth because they have to put the basics like food and shelter first,” said Shane Simpson, Minister of Social Development and Poverty Reduction.

“Access to quality, affordable dental health and hygiene care should be available to more people, and that’s why we’re making it a part of this government’s efforts to reduce poverty throughout B.C. This investment in community-based dental services will support not-for-profit dental providers across the province and benefit thousands of low-income families, children and seniors over the next three years.”

The one-time $3.6-million grant to the BC Dental Association (BCDA) will help B.C.’s 24 not-for-profit clinics provide more services to some of the province’s most vulnerable people, including:  

  • an annual grant of $20,000 for each clinic over the next three years to help offset the costs of materials and dental lab fees required to provide services to financially vulnerable people. The increase doubles the amount the clinics received in 2017. 
  • approximately $2 million over three years to support capital needs such as equipment like X-ray machines, dental chairs, pediatric equipment and computer software for the electronic submission of dental forms.

“Oral health is an important component of our overall health,” said Raymon Grewal, president, BCDA. “This funding will play a critical role in enhancing the access to dental care for financially vulnerable British Columbians, improving their quality of life and employment opportunities while also reducing the cost to the public health-care system by helping these patients remain free of oral pain and infection. The BCDA welcomes this partnership with the provincial government and looks forward to supporting its poverty reduction plan.”

Increasing access to dental care for people in need is part of TogetherBC, the Province’s first poverty reduction strategy. TogetherBC reflects government’s commitment to reduce poverty and make life more affordable for British Columbians.

Guided by extensive engagement undertaken with thousands of British Columbians, TogetherBC represents a starting point for delivering on the targets introduced in the 2018 Poverty Reduction Strategy Act: a 25% reduction in B.C.’s overall poverty rate and a 50% reduction in the child poverty rate by 2024.

Quick Facts:

  • Not-for-profit dental clinics in B.C. provide dental treatment for free or at reduced rates to low-income families.
  • Last year, B.C.’s not-for-profit dental clinics provided safe, affordable, quality dental-care services during approximately 54,000 patient visits.
  • In addition to the non-profit clinics, through the Healthy Kids Program, children of low-income families can get help with the costs of basic dental care, prescription eyewear, hearing instruments and alternative hearing assistance.
  • In 2017, the Province increased funding by $6 million annually for the BC Healthy Kids Program, bringing the current investment in the program to almost $30 million a year.

Learn More:

Reduced cost services offered by the BC Dental Association:
http://www.yourdentalhealth.ca/visiting-your-dentist/reduced-cost-clinics

Learn more about B.C.’s commitment to reduce poverty for the people of B.C.: 
http://www.gov.bc.ca/TogetherBC 

Find out about the Healthy Kids Program and low cost of dental care for children:
https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/health/managing-your-health/healthy-women-children/child-teen-health/dental-eyeglasses


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17Mar

‘Instrument of the people’ showcased at Vancouver Ukulele Festival

by admin

Vancouver Ukulele Festival 2019

When: March 22 to 24

Where: Croatian Cultural Centre

Tickets: for the March 22 Ukulele Gala Concert, $25 in advance at rubysukes.ca ($35 at the door)

Now in its 10th year, the Vancouver Ukulele Festival brings enthusiasts and musicians together for three days of concerts, workshops, and jams. Special guests include Grammy Award-winning Hawaiian virtuoso Daniel Ho, Seattle-based player Neal Chin, and musician/actress Heidi Swedberg (forever to be known by many as George’s girlfriend Susan Ross from Seinfeld). We talked to organizer Daphne “Ruby” Roubini, founder of Ruby’s Ukes ukulele school, about the event.

Q: The festival has grown quite a bit. Is that because of increasing interest in the ukulele?

A: I think it probably could have been bigger earlier in some ways, but it’s not funded. Partly it’s global interest in the ukulele. And partly it’s through performing locally, through my work with vintage jazz band Black Gardenia and my ukulele duo (Ruby & Smith, with husband Andrew Smith), and the school, Ruby’s Ukes. We started out with 12 people in one class, and now we have 350 students a term and 12 classes on offer per week three times a year, as well as a ukulele orchestra (Ruby’s Ukulele Orchestra). Generally, the reasons for its popularity is that the ukulele doesn’t come with any expectations, like the guitar or piano or saxophone, where you need to learn to read music and practice your scales and cover all the groundwork that needs to go into it. The ukulele has this instant access that suits everyone. And it’s inexpensive.


Grammy winner Daniel Ho performs at this year’s Ukulele Gala Concert, March 22 at the Croatian Cultural Centre, as part of this year’s Vancouver Ukulele Festival.

PNG

Q: It’s accessible, but there are also ukulele virtuosos, like Daniel Ho.

A: Yes. It’s an instrument of the people, but there are virtuosos from around the world showing that ukulele can represent any musical genre, and any mood of the human heart. It’s not just about being cheerful. Sometimes it can be quite mournful, but there’s a sweetness that makes it much more palatable.

Q: It must be advantageous for the festival to have a guest like Heidi Swedberg, who is well-known outside of the ukulele world, coming to town. She’s like an ambassador for the instrument.

A: It’s the second time she’s come. She lived the early part of her life in Hawaii, so she’s always loved the ukulele. Her love of the ukulele has led her to have this other career, where she travels around the world, and sings and teaches instructional ukulele workshops. When I say that people are always excited about her being part of this, she’s like “Why, it (Seinfeld) was 20 years ago!” But it’s iconic.

There are what I would call ukulele ambassadors out there, like the Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain. I saw them in 2001 in a small folk club. There were only 300 of us and a friend of mine invited me. I was studying jazz singing and piano at the time. And I couldn’t believe my eyes. They were so fantastic and musical, and they really brought joy to the audience.

Q: In tune with the instrument’s accessibility, a lot of the actual festival is workshops on Saturday and Sunday. How is the Friday night concert organized?

A: Everyone has 20 minutes. It’s this smorgasbord of ukulele styles. Del Rey will play blues and ragtime, Casey MacGill will play 40s swing. Daniel Ho’s playing flamenco ukulele. Ruby & Smith will do folk/jazz stuff to show fingerpicking style ukulele, Heidi will be singing with Daniel (Ward, Swedberg’s husband and a ukulele player in his own right), Eduardo Garcia will be doing chord melodies. Neil Chin does more jazz. So basically the ukulele is the star of the show.


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19Feb

Budget 2019 creates opportunities, makes life better for people

by admin


Making Life Better

British Columbia is an economic leader in Canada. Private-sector forecasters expect B.C. to have the highest rate of gross domestic product (GDP) growth in Canada in 2019 and 2020, and B.C. has had the lowest unemployment rate in Canada for over 17 months.

B.C.’s economic success should benefit the people who make the economy work, which is why the B.C. government is choosing to invest in people, while balancing the budget. By ensuring that everyone has a chance to succeed, government is supporting a strong, sustainable economy for today and into the future.

Strong, Stable Economic Growth

The Budget 2019 forecast for B.C. real GDP growth has increased from 1.8% to 2.4% in 2019 and from 2.0% to 2.3% in 2020, compared to the First Quarterly Report 2018, with growth rates of 2.1% expected in 2021 and 2.0% in both 2022 and 2023. These changes partly reflect recent developments regarding the Canada-United States-Mexico Agreement and the final investment decision on the LNG Canada project, the single largest private sector investment in Canadian history.

This, along with other factors, resulted in the Economic Forecast Council (EFC) substantially upgrading its projections for B.C.’s economic performance in both 2019 and 2020. An average of six private-sector forecasters (a subset of the EFC) expect B.C.’s economic growth to rank at the top of provincial standings.

The main upside risks to the economic outlook include less domestic monetary policy tightening, a weaker Canadian dollar and a more resilient U.S. economy. The main downside risks include uncertainty regarding global trade policy, fiscal sustainability at ICBC and BC Hydro, weakening global economic activity, lower commodity prices, as well as ongoing economic challenges in Asia and the euro zone. To manage these risks, the Budget 2019 economic forecast is prudent compared to the Economic Forecast Council’s outlook.

Budget Outlook

Budget 2019 projects surpluses of:

  • $274 million in 2019-20
  • $287 million in 2020-21
  • $585 million in 2021-22

The B.C. government has included several layers of prudence in the fiscal plan to help account for lower than expected revenues, unforeseen expenses or emergencies. Budget 2019 includes a forecast allowance of $500 million in 2019-20, $300 million in 2020-21, and $300 million in 2021-22. Budget 2019 also includes contingencies of $750 million in 2019-20, $400 million in 2020-21 and $400 million in 2021-22.

Revenue Outlook

Total government revenue is forecast at $59 billion in 2019-20, $60 billion in 2020-21 and $62.5 billion in 2021-22. This growth is driven by strengthening economic activity; there are no new revenue-raising tax measures in Budget 2019.

Expense Outlook

Total expenses over the three-year fiscal plan are forecast at $58.3 billion in 2019-20, $59.5 billion in 2020-21 and $61.6 billion in 2021-22.

Capital Spending

Taxpayer-supported capital spending over the fiscal plan is a record-level $20.1 billion and includes investments needed to support a strong, stable economy, such as:

  • Health: $4.4 billion to support new major construction projects and upgrading of health facilities, such as the redevelopment of the Royal Columbian Hospital in New Westminster, a new patient-care tower at the Royal Inland Hospital in Kamloops and a new St. Paul’s Hospital at the Station Street site in Vancouver.
  • Transportation: $6.6 billion for priority projects, such as the Pattullo Bridge replacement, the Broadway subway, four-laning on Highway 1 through Kicking Horse Canyon and the replacement of Bruhn Bridge in Sicamous.
  • Education: $2.7 billion to maintain, replace, renovate or expand K-12 facilities, such as a new Northeast Elementary school in Fort St. John, a new school in Kelowna and expansion schools for Sullivan Heights Secondary in Surrey and Royal Bay Secondary in the Sooke school district. 
  • Post-secondary education: $3.3 billion to build capacity and help meet the province’s future workforce needs in key sectors, including a new sustainable energy engineering building at Simon Fraser University in Surrey, a new health sciences centre at Camosun College in Victoria and a renewed and expanded trades training facility at Selkirk College in Nelson.

Debt Affordability

As a result of prudent fiscal management, the B.C. government successfully eliminated British Columbia’s operating debt in the second quarter of 2018-19 and is now free of operating debt for the first time in over 40 years. This means B.C. is in one of the strongest fiscal positions in the country.

B.C.’s taxpayer-supported debt is projected to be $44 billion at the end of 2018-19 – $1.2 billion lower than projected at Budget 2018. This means the B.C. government’s borrowing costs will be lower, saving money that can be invested into making life better for the people of B.C.

The taxpayer-supported debt-to-GDP ratio, a key metric used by credit rating agencies, is expected to remain near 16% over the fiscal plan period, while funding record levels of capital spending.

Supplementary Estimates

With the elimination of the operating debt, the B.C. government is tabling supplementary estimates. For the first time in more than a decade, the B.C. government is using supplementary estimates to reinvest part of the government’s surplus into the services people need.

Highlights include $100 million for northern communities to improve infrastructure to prepare for community growth ahead of LNG development, $89 million for health research grants and $50 million for Connecting British Columbia to improve internet connectivity for Indigenous and rural communities.


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7Feb

Drug overdoses killed nearly 1,500 people in 2018, says coroner

by admin

A total of 1,489 people died in B.C. of suspected drug overdoses in 2018, a figure that health officials say will likely increase as ongoing investigations wrap up.

On Thursday, the B.C. Coroners Service released its latest set of data on illicit drug overdose deaths. The number of overdose deaths in 2018 edged past the 1,487 deaths recorded in 2017, though this figure could change as health officials conclude investigations of deaths recorded toward the end of the year.

Even so, chief coroner Lisa Lapointe said the rate at which people were dying continued at an “alarming rate” last year.

“The illicit drug supply is unpredictable and unmanageable, and fentanyl is now implicated in 86 per cent of overdose deaths,” she said in a news release sharing the year-end figures. According to Lapointe, the rate of overdose deaths surpasses the numbers of people dying from car crashes, homicides and suicides combined.


A total of 120 deaths were recorded in November 2018, which works out to about four deaths per day that month.

BC CORONERS SERVICE

Innovative and evidence-based approaches are necessary if we want to effect meaningful change and stop the dying. We need to be prepared to do things differently to save lives.”

Middle-aged men continue to be the largest demographic represented in the totals, with men accounting for 80 per cent of suspected overdose deaths and those aged 30 to 59 accounting for 71 per cent of deaths. A total of 86 per cent of deaths occur indoors, with spikes on days immediately following distribution of welfare cheques.


Middle-age men remain the most overrepresented group among overdose deaths.

BC CORONERS SERVICE

The number of overdose deaths in 2018 equates to about four deaths per day for the entire year. Of the 365 days of 2018, at least one death was recorded on 354 of those days.

“This latest report confirms what those on the frontline already know all too well: this crisis is not slowing down,” said Dr. Evan Wood, executive director with the B.C. Centre on Substance Use.

“If we’re going to stop overdoses from happening, we urgently need to end the harms caused by prohibition while also implementing upstream responses that address the serious health and social consequences of untreated addiction.”

[email protected]
twitter.com/stephanie_ip


The majority of overdose deaths in 2018 occurred indoors at private residences.

BC CORONERS SERVICE




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6Feb

WorkBC improvements help people get training, find good jobs

by admin

Changes to WorkBC will offer better services for people who need support to re-enter the workforce, access training opportunities and find good jobs.

“Many people trying to find work face barriers to opportunity. They need a hand overcoming those barriers to take the next step to meet their goals,” said Shane Simpson, Minister of Social Development and Poverty Reduction. “That’s why we are refocusing WorkBC on delivering results for people. Improving accessibility and moving to more personalized supports will make it easier for more people to find good, stable jobs so they can provide for themselves and their families.”

WorkBC provides employment services to people at centres throughout the province and online through WorkBC.ca. People can find local and provincial job listings, workshops, skills assessments and targeted programs that include training, work experience and wage subsidies.

Service improvements under the new model include:

  • increasing the number of WorkBC centres to 103 locations, up from 84;
  • moving to an outcome-based funding model that makes people’s success in the job market a priority for service providers;
  • extending eligibility for specialized WorkBC services to anyone who has paid into employment insurance (EI) for five of the last 10 years and removing EI eligibility barriers;
  • helping people find a better job if their hours are unstable, or if the work is not in line with their skills;
  • providing an additional $9 million in direct supports like skills training and helping people access tools so they can pursue a career in the trades; and
  • improving services in rural communities by consolidating administrative catchment areas and freeing up funding for direct supports for people and more WorkBC centres. 

WorkBC centres are operated by not-for-profit, for-profit and public organizations that specialize in employment services. More than 150 organizations deliver WorkBC services in B.C., supporting more than 50,000 people each year.

Improving access to training and employment services is a part of government’s work to reduce poverty and increase opportunities for people in B.C., and is a shared priority with the B.C. Green caucus and part of the Confidence and Supply Agreement. The Province’s first poverty reduction strategy will be introduced in early 2019.

In addition to the changes, two WorkBC programs will now be offered provincially, providing consistent, reliable services for people no matter where they live:

  • The Neil Squire Society will deliver assistive technology services through a resource centre, in partnership with WorkBC centres and online. The program offers adaptive technology to people with disabilities to open up employment opportunities and help them thrive in the workplace.
  • Douglas College will deliver apprentice services provincially. Services include processing financial support applications and help for apprentices to collect employment insurance benefits while in school.

Quotes:

Queenie Choo, CEO, S.U.C.C.E.S.S —

“S.U.C.C.E.S.S. is honoured to be selected as one of the service providers to deliver WorkBC employment services. We look forward to collaborating with the ministry, the business sector and community stakeholders to deliver inclusive and client-centred services that support British Columbians to achieve sustainable employment.”

Tom Burnell, CEO, Open Door Group —

“Open Door Group is excited to continue our work in partnership with the Ministry of Social Development and Poverty Reduction in helping British Columbians prepare for, find and keep employment. Building on the foundations of the past seven years, WorkBC will continue supporting diverse job seekers and local labour market needs through flexible and accessible services.”

Val Meaney, executive director, North Island Employment Foundations Society —

“The focus on job sustainability under the new contracts will make a big difference for the people accessing our services, as well as for employers in our community who will benefit from a more stable workforce. The new model also allows us to be more flexible in how we respond to community needs as they change over time.”

Jocelyn Carver, executive director, Kootenay Community Development Centre —

“Kootenay Community Development Society is pleased to be the WorkBC contractor serving the Boundary, West and Central Kootenay region, and we’re excited to deliver WorkBC services with our partners — all of whom have been successfully delivering the program since 2012. Our clients will benefit from this continuity of service, our organizations will benefit from the expanded community of practice and our whole region will benefit from the continued provision of this critical program.”

Quick Facts:

  • A request for proposals for WorkBC employment services contracts was issued in July 2018 and closed in September 2018.
  • The new model is the result of an evaluation of WorkBC services that included consultation with clients and WorkBC contractors as well as an independent review.
  • The proportion of WorkBC contracts and funding delivered by the not-for-profit sector will increase by 8% beginning April 1, 2019.
  • Each year, the Province invests $249 million for employment services offered through WorkBC centres. In total, more than $287 million will be invested through WorkBC programs in 2019-20, which encompass WorkBC centres, assistive technology, apprentice services and the Community and Employer Partnerships program. Funding is through the federal government’s Labour Market Development Agreement, along with $29 million from the Province.

Learn More:

For information about supports available through the WorkBC employment services program, visit: www.workbc.ca

To read a factsheet about how government is improving services at WorkBC, visit: http://news.gov.bc.ca/factsheets/improving-services-at-workbc

To read the backgrounder, visit: https://news.gov.bc.ca/files/BG_SDPR_26d.pdf


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1Feb

New labour market data to increase opportunities for people

by admin

The Province and the Surrey Board of Trade are helping Surrey employers meet the city’s growing demand for skilled workers through a new labour market study that will increase employment opportunities for people and support Surrey’s vibrant local economy.

“As one of B.C.’s fastest growing cities, Surrey is planning now for tomorrow’s labour market needs,” said Shane Simpson, Minister of Social Development and Poverty Reduction. “Funding through WorkBC’s Community Employer Partnerships program will provide new labour market data that will have lasting impacts for Surrey employers, local businesses and skilled workers who are the foundation of a strong, sustainable local economy.”

The Ministry of Social Development and Poverty Reduction provided $198,965 to the Surrey Board of Trade to conduct a comprehensive labour market study to determine Surrey’s current and anticipated labour market needs and identify skills shortages.

“The Surrey Board of Trade is honoured and pleased to have received close to $200,000 in funding from the B.C. government to deliver on a Surrey workforce strategy report — a current gap in Surrey’s marketplace,” said Anita Huberman, chief executive officer, Surrey Board of Trade. “This is proactive planning for the future of our Surrey businesses and for the skills and talent that they need to thrive in the economy.”

The study concludes on Sept. 27, 2019, and a summary report of key research findings will be made available to the public in October 2019.

Funding for this and other projects is provided through WorkBC’s Community and Employer Partnerships (CEP) program. CEP aims to increase employment opportunities for unemployed British Columbians through partnerships, research and innovative job-creation projects.

Quotes:

Bruce Ralston, Minister of Jobs, Trade and Technology —

“B.C.’s economy is strong and people are benefiting from new jobs and investments in rapidly expanding communities like Surrey. This study will help governments and the business community understand the current and future needs of Surrey’s job market so they can support the labour force and drive economic growth into the future.”

Jagrup Brar, MLA for Surrey-Fleetwood —

“There’s no question that people looking to develop, launch and build successful businesses in Surrey will benefit from the findings of this new labour market study. Local people looking to plan their careers and train for in-demand jobs will benefit from this information too. Surrey is known for its innovation in business and community building. I look forward to seeing the study’s positive impact on Surrey’s labour market.”

Quick Facts:

  • More than $15 million will be allocated in 39 CEP projects throughout B.C. in 2018-19.
  • Since the program began in 2012, 365 CEP projects have helped local communities, employers and people looking for work.
  • Surrey is the ninth largest city in Canada and the second largest in Metro Vancouver.
  • Between 2011 and 2016, Surrey’s workforce grew by 30,720.

Learn More:

Learn about how community employer partnerships are helping local communities: www.workbc.ca/Employment-Services/Community-and-Employer-Partnerships.aspx

Learn more about labour market partnerships: www.workbc.ca/Employment-Services/Community-and-Employer-Partnerships/Labour-Market-Partnerships.aspx

Learn more about the Surrey Board of Trade: https://businessinsurrey.com/


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15Nov

Investment in workplace technology helps people with disabilities

by admin

A new WorkBC contract that equips people with adaptive technology will open up employment opportunities for people with disabilities and help them thrive in the workplace.

Delivered by the Neil Squire Society, the Assistive Technology Services program combines two existing services — [email protected] and supports offered through individual WorkBC Centres — into one streamlined provincial resource to help more people with disabilities throughout the province fully participate in B.C.’s economy.

“British Columbia’s economy is thriving but to be a truly inclusive province, we need everyone to have the tools they need to participate in the workforce and build the life they deserve,” said Shane Simpson, Minister of Social Development and Poverty Reduction. “The Neil Squire Society has been a leader in innovative assistive technology for over 30 years. As the successful proponent, it can continue its important work with employers and people with disabilities.”

Supports available through the Assistive Technology Services program include:

  • mobility supports, alternative keyboards, voice input equipment and other workplace modification technology
  • advice to employers on how to be more accessible and inclusive
  • training to help people navigate other services and supports to assist with employment

The contract has a five-year term, is valued at $28.8 million and will begin service delivery on April 1, 2019.

“The Neil Squire Society is dedicated to breaking down barriers that keep people with disabilities from finding sustainable, meaningful employment,” said Gary Birch, executive director, Neil Squire Society. “This funding will help expand our vision and continue our work to improve the lives and opportunities of people with disabilities.”

The Assistive Technology Services program is one of two WorkBC services that will soon be delivered provincially. Beginning April 1, 2019, Douglas College will provide WorkBC Apprentice Services, including processing financial support applications and facilitating approvals for apprentices to collect employment insurance benefits while participating in classroom training. This contract is valued at $67.5 million over five years.

Quick Facts:

  • Approximately 334,000 people in B.C. aged 15 to 64 self-identify as having a disability.
  • As of Nov. 1, 2018, more than 1,400 people with disabilities have accessed [email protected] services through the Neil Squire Society.
  • There are 84 WorkBC centres throughout the province that serve British Columbians, including people with disabilities.
  • The President’s Group, an advisory group to government, is a change-driven network of 22 B.C. business leaders committed to working with private sector employers to help increase employment opportunities for people with disabilities.
  • Of Canadians with disabilities aged 15 to 64 years, 47% are employed compared to 74% of people without disabilities.

Learn More:

For information about supports available through the WorkBC Employment Services Program, visit: https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/governments/policies-for-government/bcea-policy-and-procedure-manual/eppe/employment-program-of-british-columbia

To learn more about the Neil Squire Society, visit: https://www.neilsquire.ca/


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