MLA/Minister looks back on 2023
At the start of a new year, many of us take time to set goals and make plans for the months ahead. As MLA for Kootenay West, and Minister of Finance for the entire province, I know there is so much work to be done this year to make life better here and across B.C.
But before charging into the year ahead, I wanted to reflect on some of what we accomplished in 2023.
In February our provincial budget included investments in the areas that matter most to people, like health, housing, and safe communities. Budget 2023 expanded the climate action tax credit to give more money back to British Columbians, with the maximum amount increasing from $500 a year to $900. We also increased the BC Family Benefit, which gives money to families each month, including an additional supplement for single parents.
This year we continued to bring down child care costs for families, by expanding our Child Care Fee Reduction to include kids up to age 12 who are in before- and after- school care – they will now save as much as $145 per month, per child. This builds on the savings we previously expanded for infants, toddlers and pre-school aged kids. We also opened 37 new child care spaces for growing families in Fruitvale.
To improve health care for people, we’re continuing a focus on strengthening our health care workforce. In 2023 we recruited thousands of health care workers all over B.C., including nurses, paramedics, and family physicians. We completed improvements to the Kootenay Boundary Regional Hospital’s pharmacy and ambulatory care spaces,
and opened a new LifeLabs facility in Trail.
We want British Columbians to be prepared for the jobs of the future, so we’ve been adding degree and trade programs in technology and other growing fields. We’re also making it easier for people moving to B.C. from other countries to have their training and credentials recognized, so they can enter the workforce for in-demand careers, including health care.
We also welcomed people into new homes this year, including 37 new units in Rossland and 10 units in New Denver. Construction also began this year on 13 affordable homes in Castlegar, and 31 units in Fruitvale, and I look forward to celebrating as they become available to residents.
Along with building new housing, many of our communities need to upgrade infrastructure, like roads and water, and amenities, like parks and community centres, to continue serving residents. That’s why we provided over $1 billion to every city, village and regional district across B.C. with the Growing Communities Fund, including more than $3 million for Castlegar, nearly $3 million for Trail, over $2 million for Rossland, plus more for smaller communities and the RDCK and RDKB.
As we work to create a healthier future, it’s crucial that we protect wild spaces for future generations. In 2023 the Incomappleux Valley, home to a unique inland temperate rainforest, was made a conservancy, protecting habitat for bears and cougars, and preserving old growth forests.
The drought conditions of last summer caused concern about the Arrow Lake water levels and created a renewed interest in the Columbia River Treaty (CRT). The CRT Team (Federal, Provincial and First Nations) completed the 19th round of negotiations in 2023 with the US, making good progress on operational and other issues. We also hosted a virtual public information session to answer questions about the low levels of Arrow Lake.
As climate change continues to impact our communities, we are doubling down on preparedness and risk management, including new equipment and training for local fire departments across the region, including nearly $800,000 towards risk mapping and emergency planning in New Denver and Silverton.
No matter what the conditions, people need safe, modern roads and bridges to get around our region. In 2023, we widened Highway 6 in the Silverton/New Denver area and repaired roads and culverts that had been damaged by slides and washouts throughout Kootenay West.
We have made a lot of progress on some of our biggest challenges, but there is still a lot more to do. Let’s keep the momentum going for 2024.