The start of a New Year is a chance to reflect on what we accomplished in the last 12 months and look ahead to our goals and plans for the next 12.
As a province, we faced a fair number of challenges in 2022 and as your provincial government, we worked hard to tackle them.
While COVID-19 and the drug toxicity crisis put increased strain on our healthcare system, we took action to strengthen it. A new payment model for family doctors will help keep more physicians in family practices and clinics. And we are making it easier for nurses and doctors who got their education abroad to be able to work in our healthcare system and help patients. We’re also building a new medical school at SFU in Surrey, to train more doctors who will practice in the province.
Being able to find affordable housing is a top concern for many British Columbians. In addition to building hundreds of new affordable rental homes across the province and opening up more vacant condos for rent, we introduced a homebuyer protection period, which came into effect at the start of 2023.
The other top concern I hear from people is about ensuring everyone in their community is safe. In 2022, we invested $230 million towards strengthening rural and specialized police teams over the next three years. We secured a commitment from the federal government to address bail provisions to prevent repeat offenses.
On January 31, the decriminalization of adults who possess small amounts of illegal drugs for personal use will take effect. Health Canada has granted B.C. an exemption for three years. This move is expected to help reduce the stigma of drug addiction and make it easier for drug users to get support, including substance use treatment. It will remain illegal for youth to possess drugs, or for anyone to sell drugs or have large quantities.
We are also starting the year with two brand-new, stand-alone ministers to tackle two pressing issues that were formerly part of other larger ministries.
The Minister of Emergency Management and Climate Readiness will be dedicated to preparing for and managing our response to emergencies like floods, storms and earthquakes, which we know will become more frequent as we adapt to climate change.
The new Minister of Housing will be tasked with building more affordable housing for individuals, families and seniors, as well as helping communities better regulate short-term rentals, and fighting the increased costs caused by short-term flipping.
2023 is sure to bring us new challenges, as well as new opportunities. I am looking forward to continuing to serve British Columbians, and working alongside my colleagues and the people of this province to make it a better place to live.
~ Mike Starchuk – MLA for Surrey-Cloverdale
(Originally posted, as an OP-ED, in the CFJC Online Edition)