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Posts Tagged "Province"

23Sep

Province funds local government poverty reduction strategies

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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

8Sep

Province proposal to turn part of Trans Canada Trail to industrial use ‘mind-boggling’

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https://vancouversun.com/


Cyclists ride across a trestle bridge, part of the Columbia and Western Rail Trail.


Handout/Trails Society / PNG

A historic rail trail that was donated to the province by the Trans Canada Trail society could be opened to logging trucks if a government proposal to cancel its trail designation gets the green light, say trail advocates.

The Ministry of Forests is seeking to transfer management of a 67-kilometre portion of the Columbia and Western Rail Trail to unspecified agencies to reflect local interests and support “access for industrial activity,” according to a letter sent to stakeholders soliciting feedback on the plan.

A major logging company holds tenure for several cut blocks near the trail, which runs from Castlegar to Fife, east of Christina Lake.

“It’s mind-boggling that they’re even considering this,” said Ciel Sander, president of Trails Society of B.C. “The trail is a government asset. It should be protected as a linear park, not an access road for logging trucks.”

The Columbia and Western Rail Trail was donated to the Trans Canada Trail decades ago by the Canadian Pacific Railway for inclusion in the The Great Trail, previously known as the Trans Canada Trail, a national trail network stretching 24,000 kilometres across the country.

In 2004, the committee transferred the trail to the B.C. government with the “expressed intention that it would be used and managed as a recreational trail,” said Trans Canada Trail vice-president Jérémie Gabourg.


A cyclist on the Columbia and Western Rail Trail.

Handout/Trails Society

While the government’s proposal is clear that recreational access will remain, it marks the first time a group has sought to convert a portion of The Great Trail from a trail to a road in any province or territory.

“Sections of The Great Trail of Canada are on roadways, and we strive to move these sections of the trail to greenways, where possible,” said Gabourg. “To see a trail go from greenway to roadway is disheartening … It could set a dangerous precedent.”

The Columbia and Western Rail Trail connects with the popular Kettle Valley Rail Trail, a route that attracts cyclists from around the world. In accepting the trail from the Trans Canada Trail in 2004, the government made a commitment to preserve and protect it from motorized use, said Léon Lebrun, who was involved in the process as past president of Trails Society of B.C.

“We have a government who has not taken real responsibility,” he said. Officials have “turned a blind eye” to motorized users who have graded parts of the trail and removed several bollards designed to prevent access. “They had no permit and no permission, and the government did nothing.”

In its letter to stakeholders, the Ministry of Forests recognized vehicles are already accessing the trail, explaining the proposed administration change would ensure it was being maintained for that use.

“This portion of rail corridor contains engineered structures including steel trestles, hard rock tunnels, major culverts and retaining walls atypical of recreation trails and requiring management beyond typical trail standards,” said the letter by John Hawkins, director of Recreation Sites and Trails B.C.


Tracks on the trail, part of the Columbia and Western Rail Trail.

Handout/Trails Society

But Rossland Mayor Kathy Moore said that allowing motorized vehicles would be rewarding people who broke the law.

“While we acknowledge that this change reflects current use, this is clearly the result of years of mismanagement of what was intended as, and should have remained, a high-profile recreation and tourism amenity,” she replied to Hawkins in a letter that was shared with Postmedia.

“Those who have consistently flaunted trail use regulations are now being rewarded … We expect (Recreation Sites and Trails B.C.) to acknowledge this as a tragic failure, and ensure that resources and strategies are in place to prevent further losses of our valued trails.”

Stakeholders were given one month to register their feedback with the Ministry of Forests, ending Aug. 26.

In a statement, the Ministry of Forests said the process is ongoing to receive more information from regional districts. A decision is expected before the end of the year.

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30Aug

Province won’t change Robson Square steps despite accessibility complaints | CBC News

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The ramp that zigzags across the steps at Robson Square in downtown Vancouver will not be modified to address accessibility concerns because of the “architectural significance of the site.”

Accessibility consultant Arnold Cheng says the ramp, which was designed in the 1970s by Vancouver architect Arthur Erickson, is too steep to safely navigate in a wheelchair or while pushing a stroller.

Cheng says the ramp is also a tripping hazard for people with visual impairments because the stairs are all the same colour, which makes it difficult to determine where one step ends and the next one begins.

“A lot of people use architectural significance to justify not making any changes, but historically it has not been a problem for many, many buildings,” he said.

“The Louvre in Paris has more historical significance than Robson Square, but they have changed a lot of things over the years.”

Any changes to the design would have to be approved by the provincial government.

Arnold Cheng, accessibility assessor for spectrum ability, rolls his wheelchair up the ramp he says is unsafe at Robson Square in Vancouver on Tuesday, Aug. 20, 2019. (Maggie MacPherson/CBC) (Maggie MacPherson/CBC)

Changes coming

The province conducted accessibility audits of Robson Square in 2010 and 2018, both of which determined the stair ramps may be difficult for some people to use.

Despite the findings, the B.C. government will not alter the design.

“There are no plans to update the ramps and as such they should be primarily considered ornamental,” the Ministry of Citizens’ Services said in an emailed statement.

“Access to the building can be attained through a number of other means.”

The province says there is signage to direct people to more than 20 elevators that are located at Robson Square, but more signs and assistance for people with a variety of disabilities will soon be added to the site.

Cheng says he welcomes the changes but he doesn’t think they go far enough. 

“The signage definitely has to be better,” Cheng said.

“For some reason, people think you automatically know where everything is.”

Accessibility consultant Arnold Cheng wants to see improvements to the steps at Robson Square. (Maggie MacPherson/CBC) (Maggie MacPherson/CBC)

Erickson’s vision

Erickson’s father lost both of his legs in the First World War.

Arthur Erickson Foundation director Simon Scott says accessibility was an issue that was always close to the architect’s heart.

“He wanted to make public spaces accessible and enjoyable,” Scott said.

“The steps here, which are part of this wonderful public space, have stairs and ramps so that everybody can enjoy it.”

8Jul

Ride-hailing to hit B.C. streets by September, says province | CBC News

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The province has unveiled the final pieces of its ride-hailing puzzle which will finally allow services like Uber and Lyft to hit B.C. streets.

 North Vancouver-Lonsdale MLA Bowinn Ma announced on behalf of the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure, that ICBC has completed the insurance portion of the proposed legislation, and the Passenger Transportation Board will be able to take applications from ride services companies starting Sept. 3.

Last November, the province’s proposed legislation received royal assent. The amendments, which will significantly expand the power of the Passenger Transportation Board to determine fares, as well as the number of licensed vehicles in each region or area, have now been passed by order in council.

Today, Ma said the board will start assessing licence applications in early September with the final regulations coming into effect Sept. 16.

Application processing time will be anywhere from two weeks to a month, the ministry estimates.

“We fully expect that people will be able to hail a ride through this new industry — the Transportation Network Service industry — by the end of the year,” said Ma in a teleconference.

Another part of the legislation to ensure passenger safety, said the ministry, is the need for all ride service drivers to have a Class 4 licence, which means drivers will have to provide an ICBC driver abstract, as well as a police criminal record check.

“The Class 4 requirement is not negotiable for us,” said Ma.

Today, North Vancouver-Lonsdale MLA Bowinn Ma said the board will start assessing licence applications in early September, with the final regulations coming into effect Sept. 16. (Lucy Nicholson/Reuters)

Taxi companies will also be required to pay 30 cents for every non-accessible trip completed in a vehicle without rear or side entries. The province says this is an important step in modernizing the taxi industry and supporting accessibility in our region.

The ministry will also require all drivers to have their vehicles inspected periodically under the Motor Vehicle Act. Any vehicles operating more than 40,000 kilometres per year will require inspection every six months. If fewer than 40,000 kilometres, vehicle inspections will be required every 12 months.

Ride hailing companies will be required to pay a $5,000 annual fee to operate, but the ministry said it still does not know if it will be more or less expensive to insure a ride hailing vehicle, compared to a taxi.

The Passenger Transportation Board is an independent tribunal in B.C. established under the Passenger Transportation Act. It makes decisions on applications relating to the licensing of taxis, limousines, shuttle vans, inter-city buses, and now, ride-hailing services in B.C.


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27May

B.C. becomes first province to force change to biosimilar drugs

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Biosimilars are manufactured after the 20-year patent period expires on biologics.


Francis Georgian / PNG

Starting today, over 20,000 B.C. patients with cancer or chronic diseases like arthritis, colitis and diabetes will have six months to transition to drugs that are similar to those they’re taking as the province becomes the first in Canada to stop covering some expensive, formerly patented drugs.

Health Minister Adrian Dix promised that no harm will come from the change that will initially save the government more than $96 million in its prescription drug program (PharmaCare).

The savings will be plowed back into the drug budget to allow for funding of drugs that have not yet been covered such as Jardiance, a medicine known as an SGLT2 inhibitor for diabetes. Another drug for psoriatic arthritis called Taltz will also be immediately available.

Since some of the soon to be phased-out government-funded drugs like Remicade have to be given at infusion clinics, Dix said there may be some inconveniences as patients find new locations. But patients will work with their doctors to make the switch to “biosimilar” drugs, which are the just-as-safe and effective copycat versions of brand name bioengineered drugs called biologics.

Biosimilars are manufactured after the 20-year patent period expires on biologics. They cost anywhere from 25 to 50 per cent less than the original biologic drugs which are said to be the single biggest expense for public drug plans like PharmaCare.

European countries have led the way in transitioning patients to biosimilar drugs, but Canada has lagged far behind.

In 2018, B.C. spent $125 million on Lantus, Enbrel and Remicade, three biologic drugs that treat chronic conditions such as diabetes, arthritis and Crohn’s disease.

“Biosimilars (like infliximab) are a necessary step to ensure PharmaCare provides existing coverage for more people and funds new drugs well into the future,” Dix said.

PharmaCare coverage for certain biologics will end Nov. 25. After that time, PharmaCare will provide coverage for the original drugs only in exceptional cases and they will be decided upon on a case-by-case basis.

B.C. has spent the last nine years studying the matter before making the decision. It consulted with physician and patient groups like the B.C. Society of Rheumatologists, endocrinologists, Doctors of B.C., Arthritis Consumer Experts, Canadian Arthritis Society, B.C. Pharmacy Association, Neighbourhood Pharmacy Association, regional health authorities, Health Canada, and the Patented Prices Medicine Review Board.

About 2,700 Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis patients will also be affected by the transitioning policy, but information for gastroenterology patients will be available in a month or two.

Rheumatologist Dr. John Esdaile said B.C. becomes an overnight Canadian leader with the cost-saving policy change.

“It’s a great day for B.C., for patients, for PharmaCare and for health care in general,” he said, noting that many European countries have had such a policy for 10 years with no evidence of detriment to patients. “I don’t know of any bad news,” said Esdaile, scientific director of Arthritis Research Canada, which has been “badgering” the province to enact such a change.

“For years, B.C has been spending money it doesn’t need to spend on expensive biologics instead of using biosimilars which I call biogenerics since they work just as well,” Esdaile said.

Cheryl Koehn, president of Arthritis Consumer Experts, said society will benefit from the new policy because coverage for other conditions and drugs will expand.

MORE TO COME.

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18Mar

Province launches first poverty reduction strategy, TogetherBC

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British Columbia’s first poverty reduction strategy, TogetherBC, outlines programs and initiatives that will help reduce overall poverty in the province by 25%, and cut child poverty in half, over the next five years.

“Together, we can build a fairer province by bringing down barriers and giving people the services and supports they need to break out of the cycle of poverty,” said Shane Simpson, Minister of Social Development and Poverty Reduction. “TogetherBC is our roadmap for a better British Columbia, where everyone, regardless of their background or income, is treated with dignity and has access to opportunity.”

“For too long, too many people in British Columbia have been left out and left behind,” said Mable Elmore, Parliamentary Secretary for Poverty Reduction. “With TogetherBC, we’re tackling the discrimination and stigma that keep people from reaching their full potential so we can build a province we can all be proud of – one that’s more inclusive and more affordable for everyone.”

Using a 2016 baseline, the strategy aims to lift 140,000 people out of poverty, including 50,000 children. Further poverty reduction goals will be established as these targets are met.

Developed with feedback received through an extensive provincial consultation, the strategy is anchored by a number of key initiatives including the new B.C. Child Opportunity Benefit and Childcare BC, as well as other actions that will increase household incomes.

TogetherBC ties together actions government has taken to increase affordability, increase access to opportunity and reduce poverty since 2017, under six priority areas:

  1. affordable housing
  2. supports for families, children and youth
  3. expanding access to education and training
  4. more opportunities for people
  5. improving income supports
  6. investing in social inclusion

A Poverty Reduction Advisory Committee has been appointed to advise the minister on matters relating to poverty reduction and prevention. This advisory committee  includes advocates, experts, Indigenous peoples and people with lived experience from around the province.

This committee also serves an important oversight role. Under the Poverty Reduction Strategy Act, government is required to report out on progress to reach its five-year targets each year, starting in 2020. The committee will include a letter in each of these reports, outlining its views on progress made and progress required.

“People created poverty, and it’s up to people to solve poverty,” said Sarah Brownlee, a member of the committee. “I have experienced poverty first-hand, I have seen my friends and family experience it and I have seen the destructive consequences of lack of opportunity and access. As the poverty reduction strategy moves forward, I will be making sure that the voices of those with lived experience are represented and heard.”

“Poverty reduction is about putting people and communities first,” said Catherine Ludgate, chair of the committee. “It is good for individuals, families, communities and our economy. Creating opportunities for people to participate fully and with dignity requires us to invest thoughtfully in programs, policies and procedures to tackle poverty. I look forward to supporting government in this critically important work.”

B.C.’s first poverty reduction strategy is a shared priority developed in consultation with the BC Green Party caucus, and is part of the Confidence and Supply Agreement. The strategy includes the work of the Fair Wages Commission and Basic Income Expert Committee, work that will continue to be reflected as the strategy evolves and is updated in coming years.

“If we are going to be everything we can be, then we must address poverty,” said Simpson. “After so many years of social priorities being ignored and underfunded, we know we can’t solve this overnight, but we have set the course and I look forward to working across all sectors to address the breadth and depth of poverty. Poverty is a complex problem, yes, and it’s one that we can solve.”

Quick Facts (2016 Market Basket Measure):

  • British Columbia has one of the highest rates of poverty in the country and has for decades; it also has the second-highest overall poverty rate in Canada.
  • About 40% of people living below the poverty line are working.
  • B.C.’s child poverty rate is above the national average, with approximately 99,000 children living in poverty in B.C.
  • Children who live in single-parent families are more than three times more likely to live in poverty than children in two-parent families.
  • The Poverty Reduction Strategy Act, which embedded the poverty reduction targets and timelines in law, was passed unanimously in November 2018.

Learn More:

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

Advisory committee members’ biographies:
https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/governments/about-the-bc-government/poverty-reduction-strategy/advisory-committee

Read the consultation report, What We Heard About Poverty in B.C.:
https://engage.gov.bc.ca/app/uploads/sites/242/2018/07/WWH_Report-PovertyReductionStrategy_FINAL.pdf

A backgrounder follows.


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3Mar

City of Vancouver, province open Nora Hendrix Place modular homes

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Albert Briggs plays drums as Melanie Mark, Minister of Advanced Education, Skills and Training and MLA for Vancouver-Mount Pleasant; and Kennedy Stewart, Mayor of Vancouver look on at the opening of Norah Hendrix Place.


NICK PROCAYLO / PNG

Nora Hendrix has been described as a remarkable woman who was the glue that connected Vancouver’s early black community.

On Sunday, the provincial government and the City of Vancouver officially opened a temporary modular housing project in Strathcona named after Hendrix, to honour her legacy and that of the black community that was wiped out of the area in the 1960s.

“Ms. Hendrix was a tireless advocate for her community,” said Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing Selina Robinson.

The province committed 17 months ago to building 2,000 units of temporary modular housing across the province, with 606 of those units in Vancouver. The provincial government pledged $66 million toward the Vancouver projects.

In Vancouver, 554 provincially-funded modular homes have already been opened on nine sites. Nora Hendrix Place, a three-storey building with 52 units that will be run by the Portland Hotel Society, is the final project to be completed in the city. It’s expected that people will start moving in this week.

“Hundreds of people are living outside with nowhere to sleep, use the washroom or get regular food and water, and this isn’t how you treat your neighbours,” said Mayor Kennedy Stewart. “We’re trying to do everything we can to make sure everyone is included and has a roof over their head.”

Stewart said the modular housing units are a testament to cooperation between multiple levels of government, non-profits and the community, and he looks forward to working on more in the future.

The studio units, built by Horizon North, are about 320 square feet each in size and have a kitchenette, bathroom, and a living/sleeping area. Six homes are wheelchair accessible. The building has an indoor amenity space, commercial kitchen, laundry facilities, administration office and meeting rooms for the staff and residents.

All new modular housing buildings have staff on site 24 hours a day and provide services and supports such as meals, education and work opportunities, healthcare, life skills, social and recreational programs, case planning and needs assessment and help navigating government services.


The new 52-unit modular housing project at 268 Union St. in Vancouver opened Saturday. It honours honours Nora Hendrix, who was a pillar of the early Vancouver black community, which was centred in Strathcona.

NICK PROCAYLO /

PNG

To honour its location in what used to be Hogan’s Alley and the woman it is named after, the housing project will have some services and supports geared specifically to the needs of the black and Indigenous communities, and members of those groups who are experiencing homelessness will be prioritized.

“Let’s call it what it is: This city has a history of anti-black racism, it has history of anti-Indigenous racism,” said Stewart. “It has a long history of racism that we’re addressing through reconciliation but I think today it’s also addressing damage of the past.”

Hendrix came to Vancouver in 1911 and became an important figure in the East End neighbourhood — now Strathcona — and Hogan’s Alley in particular, which at the time was home to Vancouver’s black community.

Hendrix started the Vancouver chapter of the African Methodist Episcopal Fountain Chapel, where people gathered to pray and socialize. She also cooked at Vie’s Chicken and Steak House on Union, which was part of Hogan’s Alley. Her grandson, rock legend Jimi Hendrix, was known to visit the area during his childhood.

Many of the homes and businesses in the community were demolished to make way for the “urban-renewal projects” and the Georgia and Dunsmuir viaducts.

“That monument to our oppression … was what displaced our community,” said June Francis, co-chair of the Hogan’s Alley society, gesturing to the Dunsmuir viaduct. “It displaced our hopes, it displaced our dreams, it displaced our businesses.”

The modular housing site will eventually be redeveloped as part of the city’s North East False Creek Plan, which calls for the black community to be honoured and what was formerly Hogan’s Alley to be a focal point. A black cultural centre is a centrepiece to the redevelopment, and the city hopes to employ land trusts and long-term leases to build the community.

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19Feb

B.C. Budget 2019: Province boosts income, disability assistance rates

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B.C. Poverty Reduction Coalition organizer Trish Garner, pictured in 2012, calls the province’s $50 increase to monthly income and disability assistance rates ‘a drop in the ocean’ that still keeps rates ‘shockingly low.’


B.C. Poverty Reduction Coalition organizer Trish Garner, pictured in 2012, calls the province’s $50 increase to monthly income and disability assistance rates ‘a drop in the ocean’ that still keeps rates ‘shockingly low.’


Arlen Redekop / PNG files

A boost to assistance rates are among the initiatives in Carole James’s latest budget intended to ease the financial burden faced by hundreds of thousands of B.C. residents who live in poverty.

But the financial measures, which come in advance of an anticipated poverty reduction plan slated for a March release, received muted reaction from some anti-poverty proponents.

In her budget speech, the finance minister said B.C. is thriving, with a balanced budget and a strong credit rating.

“But we will never have a truly prosperous province unless everyone in British Columbia can share in that prosperity,” James said. Often, all it takes to change a person’s life is an opportunity paired with a hand up, she said.

The most obvious hand up for those living in poverty that James’s government included in its latest financial plan is a $50 increase to monthly income and disability assistance rates. The government increased those same rates by $100 two years ago, bringing the total bump in the last three years to $150. Before that, a decade had passed without any increase at all.

Trish Garner, a community organizer with the B.C. Poverty Reduction Coalition, called the $50 increase “a drop in the ocean” that still keeps rates “shockingly low.” She said her organization was looking for an increase of at least $200 this year.

The latest increase places income assistance for a single employable person at $760 per month — less than 50 per cent of the poverty line, Garner said. Those on disability assistance will see their rates rise to $1,183. The increases come with a $44-million price tag over three years, according to the fiscal plan.

Made with Flourish

B.C. is the only province in Canada that does not have a poverty reduction plan, and it also has the highest rate of poverty for children in Canada, according to Shane Simpson, the minister of social development and poverty reduction.

No specific dollar figure for his anticipated poverty plan was included in the budget, but James said the budget did include some initiatives that would form part of the plan. She pointed in particular at a new “child opportunity benefit” that will put as much as $3,400 a year into the hands of parents who are raising children.

Garner said the child benefit gets B.C. caught up to other provinces by extending support for children up to their 18th year and will make “a huge difference.”

Meanwhile, James said more needs to be done to make income and disability assistance more accessible. Included in her budget is $26 million to remove barriers to financial support.

The budget includes $76 million to help put another 200 people in need into modular homes, and organizations that run rent banks will see funding for short-term, low-or-no interest loans to tenants who can’t pay their rent.

The government has said it wants to lift 140,000 people above the poverty line, including half of the 100,000 children who are impoverished, by 2024.

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1Feb

Province says no to replacing 70-year-old Kelowna middle school

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The provincial government has denied a request by an Okanagan school district to replace a 70-year-old middle school in Kelowna, a decision that’s left some in the community frustrated.

Marie Howell, the president of Rutland Middle School’s parent advisory council, says the school has a number of issues.

Howell, who has two children in the school, says about 550 students attend the school but there is only one set of bathrooms each for girls and boys, with two more toilets in the gym. 

The school has 11 portables  — temporary structures used to create extra classroom capacity — with more expected on site.

Accessibility is a major problem, Howell said. The library, the art and band classrooms, and the auditorium, all require the use of stairs which render the spaces inaccessible for anyone in a wheelchair or with other physical limitations. 

Then there’s the smell.

“Our school, because of its age, has quite the unique smell to the point,” Howell said. “Even trustees have noticed that smell when they walk in.”

Seismic upgrades, growth prioritized

In his rejection letter to School District No. 23 (Central Okanagan), Education Minister Rob Fleming said the government has prioritized new schools and additions in districts experiencing high growth, and accelerating seismic upgrade projects to make schools seismically safe as soon as possible. 

Rutland Middle School doesn’t meet those priorities, the minister said.

Fleming also pointed out four new schools were built in the Central Okanagan School Board area since 2007 to address growth in the area. 

The use of portable classrooms have been a major issue in the fast-growing school district of Surrey, B.C. (CBC)

10-year struggle

Moyra Baxter, the board’s chair, said she understands Howell’s frustrations. 

“I can’t disagree with anything that she raises as an issue at Rutland Middle School,” Baxter told CBC Daybreak South  host Chris Walker. 

Baxter says the board has been looking at replacing the property for 10 years, but discussions have gone back and forth between the board and the province with different ideas how the school could be replaced. 

Rebuttal letter in works

For Baxter, however, the growth in the Rutland area is comparable to that of Surrey’s in the Lower Mainland where nearly 300 portables were in use in 2017.

It’s something she said the board will focus on in its rebuttal letter to Fleming. 

“Surrey has over 70,000 students, so we absolutely realize how huge it is,” she said.

“But we believe when you take the population and you count the number of portables, that we actually percentage-wise have more portables than they do.”

She said the board will also consider giving priority to any projects at Rutland when it applies for its 2019- 20 facilities grants.

Howell says she wants the government to consider the changes from the perspective of the students. 

“When my kids come home and say they don’t want to use the toilets, that they think their school is gross, they hear students from other schools coming making comments about how disgusting our school is, I don’t think that helps any social or emotional learning for our students.”


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16Nov

B.C. government to bring lower transgender surgery to the province

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Reconstructive lower surgery for transgender people will soon be available in British Columbia.

Health Minister Adrian Dix says the trans community has advocated for a number of years for improved access to care for the complex surgeries in B.C.

Up until now, those wanting the surgery had to travel to Montreal or the United States, which Dix says resulted in additional medical risks associated with travelling long distances after surgery and with follow-up care.

The Health Ministry says gender-affirming surgery will be available at Vancouver Coastal Health starting next year and trans people will also have improved access to publicly funded chest and breast surgeries throughout the province.


Health Minister Adrian Dix

Nick Procaylo /

PNG

Dix says B.C. is the first province in Western Canada to provide the surgeries.

The government says about 100 people travel out of the province for the lower surgeries every year and about 200 chest and breast surgeries are expected to take place in B.C. in the coming year.


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