Summer session focuses on protecting people, laying groundwork for recovery

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Protecting people from the effects of COVID-19 and laying the groundwork for a safe recovery and an even brighter future guided the government’s work in the legislative session that ended Friday, Aug. 14, 2020.

“The last few months have challenged our province in ways we could never have imagined,” said Premier John Horgan. “While so much has changed, our government’s fundamental approach has not. We remain focused on making life better for everyone in British Columbia. Since the pandemic hit, that has meant an emphasis on keeping people safe and protecting their livelihoods.”

B.C.’s legislature led the country in demonstrating how to have a safe and productive session, passing 20 pieces of legislation while maintaining social distancing. These included important measures to respond to the pandemic, provide services and supports for people, and make life more affordable.

This summer, legislation was passed to overhaul ICBC with an enhanced care model that will save drivers 20% — an average of $400 per year — by eliminating legal costs from the system, while giving better benefits to those injured in car accidents. The landmark reforms will give British Columbians peace of mind that if they are injured in a crash, they will be looked after instead of being fought for years in court.

“Before COVID-19, our government was making real progress to make life more affordable for people,” Premier Horgan said. “But we know there’s much more to do. With so many British Columbians worried about their livelihoods, it’s more important than ever that we continue to bring down the cost of everyday expenses — like insurance bills.”

For the first time in 20 years, the Province brought forward legislative changes to the Workers Compensation Act. The changes will provide better support to injured workers and their families and enhance WorkSafeBC’s ability to investigate workplace incidents, while keeping premiums low.

To ensure more effective permitting, as well as better protection of workers, the environment and the public, the legislature also updated the Mines Act. The update strengthens government’s ability to hold mines accountable without sacrificing a strong investment climate.

“The pandemic has reinforced that health and safety for workers must remain a top priority as we build our economic recovery,” Premier Horgan said. “Throughout this crisis, workers in grocery stores and daycares, on trucks and farms, put themselves at risk to provide us essential services. They reminded us that when we talk about the economy, we are talking about people — people who are owed the best possible protection at work.”

As part of the CleanBC plan, the Province put in place new rules for 100% electric-vehicle sales by 2040 to reduce air pollution and fight climate change. CleanBC is a pathway to a more prosperous, balanced and sustainable future. CleanBC was developed in collaboration with the BC Green Party caucus and Andrew Weaver, MLA for Oak Bay-Gordon Head, and supports the commitment in the Confidence and Supply Agreement to implement climate action to meet B.C.’s emission targets.

Outside of the legislature, the Province continued to invest in building critical infrastructure and improving the services British Columbians rely on. To help parents and families, the Province has announced hundreds of new child care spaces are coming to communities throughout British Columbia. A new urgent and primary care center opened in Maple Ridge this summer and another has been announced for Esquimalt. People living in Surrey and surrounding communities will soon have improved access to care with the addition of a regional cancer centre at the second Surrey hospital. An expanded plan for an emergency department and intensive care unit at Richmond Hospital will bring more services and better care for people.

“Our recovery must mean more than returning to what we had before the pandemic struck,” Premier Horgan said. “I know we can build a B.C that’s even better than before — one with strong public services, good-paying clean jobs and where we work in partnership with Indigenous peoples. I’m pleased that the last few weeks have begun to lay the groundwork for a recovery that works for everyone.”