A new, modernized voting system will likely be in place when British Columbians cast their ballots in the next provincial general election.
Elections BC received a letter July 3 from Attorney General David Eby, indicating the province’s intention to introduce the legislative changes aimed at increasing accessibility and efficiency come election day.
“Should voting modernization be adopted, it will improve the voting experience for British Columbians, make voting faster, improve accessibility, speed up results, and provide candidates with current participation information to assist them in their efforts to get out the vote,” said Anton Boegman, B.C.’s chief electoral officer, in a news release Thursday.
The proposed changes include:
Being able to vote at any polling place in the province.
All votes, including absentee ballots to be counted on election night.
Voting activity recorded in an electronic voting book covering the entire province, for faster ballot counting.
Participation captured in real-time, electronically, with votes uploaded to central servers.
Uploaded votes to be instantly shared with candidates and political parties.
The new technologies would also increase accessibility for voters with disabilities by way of updated assistive voting devices.
The goal is for the new systems to be in place for B.C.’s next scheduled general election on Oct. 16, 2021.
The estimated cost to develop and implement the proposed voting model in B.C. is $11 million.
If the Legislative Assembly adopts the amendments, it would be the most significant update to voting procedures in at least 20 years, according to Boegman.
People with disabilities will be supported in living with independence and as full participants in their communities, through $500,000 for community projects that improve accessibility.
“Every day, people with disabilities overcome barriers that could otherwise impact their lives,” said Shane Simpson, Minister of Social Development and Poverty Reduction. “Organizations across B.C. are working to embrace diversity, create equal opportunities and improve social inclusion. This funding will support them in that important work and contribute to the Province’s commitment to building a better B.C. for people with disabilities.”
The funding announcement launches B.C.’s second annual AccessAbility Week, May 26 to June 1, 2019. AccessAbility Week promotes and celebrates diversity and inclusion, and recognizes the importance of accessibility.
The funds will be distributed through grants administered by Disability Alliance BC (DABC). A call for proposals will be posted on the DABC website in summer 2019, and grants will be awarded by the end of the year.
“Disability Alliance BC is honoured to have the opportunity to once again support projects that promote greater accessibility and inclusivity for people with disabilities in B.C. communities,” said Justina Loh, executive director, Disability Alliance BC. “With funding from the Ministry of Social Development and Poverty Reduction, we will help enrich and improve the lives of all people with disabilities. We are grateful to government for providing the funds and the opportunity to see more amazing projects come to life.”
During AccessAbility Week, communities throughout the province will host events and supporting activities that promote inclusion and accessibility. The celebrations are supported by $10,000 in provincial funding to the Social Planning and Research Council of BC (SPARC BC). AccessAbility Week 2019 will wrap up on June 1, Access Awareness Day.
This is the second year that these grants are being made available. Last year, 16 community projects received funding for projects that will be completed by the end of this year.
In B.C., more than 900,000 people aged 15 years and older, or 24.7% of the population, self-identify as having a disability.
One in five Canadian adults has a disability.
The provincial government provides up to $5 billion annually to fund services and supports for people with disabilities in B.C.
Health Minister Ginette Petitpas Taylor Ryan Remiorz/The Canadian Press
Dr. Kim McGrail says she and her team ran into a familiar challenge when they were trying to compare different approaches to family health-care reform across the country.
They wanted to look at Quebec and British Columbia, which share the same goal of ensuring every resident has a family doctor but are tackling it through different care models.
Gathering the data was going to be difficult, said McGrail, who is a professor at the University of British Columbia’s School of Population and Public Health.
“The question is, is there a difference in outcomes with these two different approaches? It’s really, really complicated,” she said.
“It’s two different data requests, different timelines, different roles. And then you get the data and the data themselves are really, fundamentally different because you’re talking about primary care data that is negotiated in provinces between medical associations and governments.
So there’s nothing that looks similar about this data across the country.“
McGrail is the scientific lead for a new health research database that aims to eliminate some of those challenges. The Strategy for Patient-Oriented Research Canadian Data Platform is expected to launch in the next two or three months.
She said it will provide a single portal through which researchers can request information from various sources from across the country and share analytical tools.
“What we’re doing is trying to build those resources up front so when a researcher comes along and has that sort of question, it’s a much, much faster journey to get that answer,” she said.
McGrail likened the current research process to an undulating wave graph. A researcher will start at the bottom of the wave and work their way to the top then move on to something else. Another researcher who picks up the same topic has to start at the bottom of the wave again.
The database aims to eliminate those waves, having the second researcher pick up at the peak of where the last person left off.
“We trying to push people up so they can start closer to the top,” she said.
Health Minister Ginette Petitpas Taylor was at University of B.C. Tuesday to announce the federal government and several partners are contributing $81 million over seven years to support the database.
She said the database will help improve responses for health-care priorities that affect all provinces.
“Cancer, the opioid crisis and heart disease don’t stop at Kicking Horse Pass, the Ottawa River or the Tantramar Marshes,” she said.
Other funding partners include the Canadian Institutes for Health Research, Ontario Ministry of Health, Population Data BC, the Canadian Institute for Health Information, the Newfoundland and Labrador Centre for Health Information and the University of B.C.
Finance Minister Carole James laid out a mostly stay-the-course provincial budget Tuesday in Victoria, albeit, with some surprises.
Here are the 10 biggest takeaways from B.C.’s 2018-19 provincial budget.
New child-care benefit…
A new child tax benefit was announced that helps most parents of kids 18 and under. (Zoe Duhaime)
The biggest announcement is likely the new B.C. Child Opportunity Benefit. It replaces the Early Childhood Tax Benefit and offers some families a substantial increase both in monthly benefits and eligibility.
The new benefit covers all children under 18. The old benefit ended once a child turned six.
For instance, a family with income of $25,000 or less will receive a refundable tax credit of $1,600 for a first child, $1,000 for a second child and $800 for each subsequent child.
Those dollar figures decrease with the family’s income.
Families with two children earning $114,500 or more will get no benefit while families making $97,500 with one child receive nothing.
The benefit can be applied for starting in October 2020. James said the delay is to align the province’s system with the federal tax code.
… But no daycare
The budget had little to say about one of the NDP’s key promises in 2017: universal, affordable child care.
The 2019 budget only mentions last year’s commitment to $1 billion to create child-care spaces and reduce daycare costs to parents over three years.
The government has spent an additional $9 million each year on daycare beyond the $1 billion, however, as a result of increasing demand.
Interest-free student loans
The provincial portion of student loans will now be interest-free effective immediately. The announcement covers both current and existing student loans.
The government estimates borrowers will save an average of about $2,300 over its 10-year repayment periods.
Increases to disability, income assistance rates
The government increased disability and income assistance rates. (Zoe Duhaime)
People receiving income assistance or disability assistance will get $50 more each month starting in April.
In total, a single, employable person on income assistance will now be eligible for $760 per month. A person with disabilities will now receive $1,183 per month.
The NDP had previously increased these payments $100 per month since forming government. Benefits for a single, employable person will become the second-most generous in Canada, after Manitoba, and benefits for persons with disabilities are now the third-most generous after Alberta and Saskatchewan.
Lottery funds for First Nation communities
A new 25-year agreement will see the province assign seven per cent of gaming revenue in B.C. to First Nations communities.
Each community will receive between $500,000 and $2 million each year from the agreement.
The funds will come from gaming revenue that would normally go into general revenue.
ICBC still a big concern
ICBC’s financial health remains a concern. (Zoe Duhaime)
James highlighted the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia as a possible threat to the provincial bottom line.
The Crown corporation has produced losses in the hundreds of millions of dollars in several recent financial quarters, and the budget document highlights the insurer as a source of “particular risk” if the situation does not improve.
James said problems outside of B.C., like U.S. trade issues or the slowing growth of the Chinese economy, are other threats to the province’s continued growth.
Funding for 200 new units of temporary modular housing was announced. Funding for 2,000 units has already been announced. (Zoe Duhaime)
The province announced 200 extra temporary modular housing units are in the budget, as well as a new $10-million rent bank for those needing short-term help to stay housed.
There was no progress on the NDP’s promised $400 per year renters’ rebate, but James said work on the file was ongoing.
Clean B.C. rebates
Funding for Clean B.C. was announced in the 2019 budget. (Zoe Duhaime)
The province committed $900 million over the next three years to fund the rebates and incentives in the Clean B.C. program.
Those include rebates of up to $6,000 on new zero-emission vehicles, $14,000 for home improvements to improve energy efficiency and $700 for high-efficiency natural gas furnaces.
Clean B.C. is the provincial plan to reduce B.C.’s greenhouse gas emissions 40 percent below 2007 levels by 2030.
Wildfire efforts but no structural changes
New funds were announced for fighting wildfires. (Zoe Duhaime)
Base funding for wildfire management was increased from $64 million per year to $101 million. The government says that money will improve wildfire control and communications in communities hit by fire.
The province will still use statutory spending to fight fires if the costs exceed that amount from, for example, contingencies and surpluses. Recent fire seasons have needed this extra funding.
Transit stays on track
New money was announced for handyDART service. As well, some new money was announced for highway improvement projects.
A police command centre has set up at Goldstream Provincial Park in Langford on Vancouver Island as homeless campers forced from green space in Saanich fear they are once again being pushed out.
Organizer Chrissy Brett said the Environment Ministry arrived after 5 p.m. Wednesday night and closed the park to all but registered campers. She said the park will be closed at 11 a.m. today to everyone, just two days after the campers arrived. Police had yet to confirm this Thursday morning.
Langford Mayor Stew Young signalled that his community would not put out the welcome mat for homeless campers who moved to Goldstream park on Tuesday evening.
A frustrated Young said he received hundreds of complaints by Wednesday from residents who are concerned about break-ins and drug use.
“The public is absolutely fed up. They know these are not just campers looking for a home. They’re in there stealing. They’re doing drugs. They leave needles everywhere,” said Young. “I can tell you, parents are already telling me their kids will never go in there again because you’ll never find all the needles, all the drugs and all the opioids.”
Young said he was “very disappointed” he didn’t get a call from the provincial government to let him know the campers were moving to the provincial park on the edge of his municipality.
“Housing Minister Selina Robinson was on the news talking about it. But no courtesy call to me saying ‘Guess what? We’re actually paying for them to go to a provincial park.’ If that’s their solution for homelessness, we have a really big problem, a bigger problem than I thought,” said Young.
The government provides free camping at B.C. Parks to people who receive disability assistance through the Ministry of Social Development and Poverty Reduction. The campers said they are planning to spend the next two weeks in the park to regroup and recuperate.
The government should have been better prepared after a homeless camp on the Victoria courthouse lawn cost taxpayers $3 million in legal fees and site cleanup, said Young. It’s estimated the tent city at Regina Park will cost Saanich taxpayers $1 million.
“The province should have been out in front of this in the first place,” said Young. “They’re not being responsible. Before they started moving people to a provincial park, there should have been some dialogue with police, council, my staff and myself. We got caught.”
Young has met with West Shore RCMP and senior staff to consider what to do to keep the community safe.
“Whoever thought of this is an absolute idiot,” he fumed.
A statement from the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing said B.C. Parks staff will monitor the situation at Goldstream Park.
“While we understand this is not an ideal location, it is a safer location than the highway right of way where the campers were living previously.”
The goal is to get people into shelters and long-term housing.
“Solving this will require partnerships with regional and local government leaders to build appropriate and affordable housing. Unfortunately, while we already have 2,000 new modular homes in development across B.C., only one site for 21 units was identified in Victoria, and no other local governments within the CRD have identified land where we could build these homes.”
Young said staff from four ministries — Municipal Affairs and Housing, Mental Health and Addiction, the Attorney General, and Social Development and Poverty Reduction — should form a provincial action assessment team that goes out every day to help marginalized people.
“There’s so much money out there. Get out of your office and go work for these people. I don’t need a thousand people working in an office when the problem is out here, or in Saanich or in Victoria. Help them. Make sure they get the help they need. Find out where their families are,” said Young, who called the situation a crisis.
Putting 100 modular units in the middle of a neighbourhood for five years is stupid, said Young.
“They’re not going to solve the problem long-term. Build proper housing and build it faster and do it all over the province.”
The RCMP will do their job and uphold the law, said Young.
“They will arrest people if they are doing drugs. If anything is going on, they will uphold the law.”
Dean Fortin, executive director of Pacifica Housing, said outreach workers did more than 100 vulnerability assessments when the campers lived in Regina Park.
“These aren’t a bunch of advocates with social privilege trying to raise a point. The vast majority of individuals who made up the camp were suffering from mental health and addictions. They are already classified by the ministry as people with disabilities. They have many challenges.”
More than 10 people from Regina Park have been placed in supportive housing, said Fortin.
Outreach staff will go to Goldstream, meet with the campers, understand their needs and see if they can help move them into permanent housing.
“It’s not a bad thing to have gone to Goldstream because they’re not under the constant threat of being displaced and made to move on. … The ability to just have two weeks of peace, and for us, as a service provider, that’s two weeks of us working to find a more permanent solution,” said Fortin.
Earlier, at Goldstream Park on Wednesday morning, sunlight streamed through the massive trees. The campers were enjoying their peaceful surroundings.
“It was so quiet last night, I heard an owl hoot,” said Lynne Hibak.
“I heard other people snoring,” said Lance Larsen. “I never heard that at the other camp because there was too much noise and it was drowned out by all the activity. If you have really good hearing, in the dead of night, you can hear the water trickling and the hiss of the waterfall.”
“No window warriors yelling at us,” said Don, who didn’t want his last name in the newspaper.
The campers said they were driven to the park by supporters.
Published Thursday, September 20, 2018 11:19AM PDT
Last Updated Thursday, September 20, 2018 12:38PM PDT
Just a day after homeless occupants from a former tent city moved into Goldstream Provincial Park, they and other campers have been told to leave.
West Shore RCMP arrived at the park Wednesday night briefly blocking access and telling campers it would be closed indefinitely after 11 a.m. Thursday.
Reports then surfaced that campers would be granted an additional 24 hours to pack up and move out of the camp whlie the government collected further information.
The park shutdown applies to all campers, not just the 25 or so tent city residents who moved in Wednesday night.
Those homeless campers said they were under the impression they’d be able to stay at the park for two weeks after they were evicted from two Saanich parks in a week.
“I went and talked to park ranger and he said ‘Oh we’re trying to nip it in the bud, we don’t want to see what’ll happen in two weeks from now,'” said camper Morgan Van Humbeck.
Tent city organizer Chrissy Brett called on B.C.’s premier to discuss options with the group instead of evicting them.
“John Horgan if you’re watching this I would ask you to ask your ministers to come down and have a conversation and sit around the one table we have left, and tell people to their face that they have no right to exist here in British Columbia if you’re homeless,” said Brett.
But Langford Mayor Stew Young said problems like open drug use and theft moved in along with the campers, prompting the shutdown.
“This is not a place to have needle sharps and other activity around that neighbourhood especially,” Stew Young told CFAX 1070. “We’ve already, from yesterday, had two individual instances of males in the washroom shooting up in front of other families that are in there and camping, so those people have left.”
Mounties referred questions to BC Parks, saying they were assisting the organization by enforcing regulations of the Parks Act.
On Thursday, B.C.’s housing minister Selina Robinson issued a statement saying that the campground was closed to ensure public safety after concerns were expressed by RCMP.
“The park is not an appropriate place for the establishment of a tent city. We urge those at Goldstream to work with staff to identify better housing solutions,” Robinson said.
She said the province’s goal is to get people into shelters and longer-term housing, but a CTV News report Wednesday found that all shelters in the Capital Region were full. Robinson pointed to 25 new shelter beds opening at the Victoria Native Friendship Centre Oct. 1.
She also noted that in the Capital Region, only the City of Victoria had identified a site for modular units of supportive housing that the government has committed to build.
That changed Thursday, when the District of Saanich announced it had identified a site near Saanich city hall for modular units to be built.
The section of land is north of the Saanich Fire Hall on Vernon Avenue.
“We’re hopeful that by providing this land, we’re moving in the right direction to secure housing and satisfy some of the need for housing in the region,” said Chief Administrative Officer Paul Thorkelsson.
The district said it will make another announcement soon once further details of the project are confirmed.
We’ve offered access to land at the Municipal Hall campus to BC Housing to provide modular supportive housing units for people experiencing homelessness or at risk of homelessness. #saanich#bcpolihttps://t.co/17BhrPKFx6
To mark B.C.’s first AccessAbility Week, the Government of British Columbia is announcing funding to support projects that will improve accessibility throughout the province.
“People with disabilities often face both physical and social barriers in their day-to-day life, and that needs to change,” said Shane Simpson, Minister of Social Development and Poverty Reduction. “The $500,000 we are announcing today is one way our government is supporting organizations to advance their work, reduce barriers and increase accessibility throughout the province.”
The funding will be distributed through a series of grants administered by Disability Alliance BC (DABC). A call for proposals will be issued later in the summer 2018, and the grants will be dispersed by the end of the year.
“There is a lot of great work happening throughout B.C. to enhance accessibility and inclusion,” said Sam Turcott, DABC’s advocacy access program director. “This funding recognizes these efforts, and will help organizations to move forward on projects and initiatives that will help people with disabilities participate more fully in their communities.”
The Province proclaimed May 27 to June 2, 2018, as B.C.’s first AccessAbility Week, to promote inclusion and accessibility, and to recognize the people and organizations who are working to make B.C. a more inclusive and welcoming province for people with disabilities.
More than 500,000 people in B.C. over the age of 15 years identify as having a disability.
For organizations interested in applying for funding, details on the call for proposals will be available on the Disability Alliance BC website in the coming weeks.
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