News April 2018

Dear Neighbours:

It has been a while (again) since we’ve been able to send out a newsletter, thank you for your patience. To say that things have been busy is an understatement!

We have had big news in our community since the tabling of our first budget in February.

We’ve announced the largest transit investment in BC’s history, providing light rail service in Surrey and building the Broadway subway, and increasing the number of buses available across the region.

To improve affordability, we’ve announced the 50% reduction of MSP for this year, and the total elimination of this regressive tax next year. That’s a savings of $900 for a single person, and $1800 for a family. People who pay Pharmacare deductibles will see significant reductions in those costs, rental assistance for qualifying seniors will go up in September, and senior passes on BC Ferries have been restored.

On the education side, Bayview Elementary school is being seismically upgraded (continuing to enjoy that fact!). Classes in our community in grade schools and high schools are being restructured to ensure appropriate class sizes and supports for kids with extra needs. Our big challenge now is hiring enough teachers, and ensuring we have enough classroom space – it wasn’t that long ago that the school board was trying to figure out how to close schools in and around Vancouver.  For younger children, we have a new childcare plan that will assist parents directly, reduce fees in licensed care, and create 22,000 new licensed child care spaces.

On the health side, Health Minister Adrian Dix has announced new provincial funding for hip and knee surgeries, and MRI tests, to reduce wait lists to meet minimum standards that we would all expect our healthcare system to meet.

On housing, two thousand modular housing units are slowly rolling out across Metro Vancouver to address street homelessness. Here in Vancouver Point Grey, people living in the woods near Jericho Beach, or in their cars, may actually have a chance at a stable home with the services they need. People living in tent cities in Vancouver, Maple Ridge and Surrey will finally be housed.  For those of you who haven’t had a chance to review it yet, I hope that you do spend a little time checking out our new 30 point housing plan, a centerpiece of the budget.    In it are many separate and serious initiatives to address different aspects of the housing crisis in BC.

Our housing plan will build more rental housing, more social housing, more student housing, and more emergency housing for the homeless, all in all $7 Billion in housing investments.  There are measures to crack down on tax fraud and close loopholes that I am actively involved in seeing through myself at this time. These include investigating money laundering, strengthening provincial auditing and enforcement powers, instating a beneficial ownership registry and a registry for condo pre-sales, and strengthening provincial-federal cooperation to combat tax evasion and avoidance. There are also several initiatives that address systematic issues in our housing marketplace, increase fairness, and stabilize our housing market. These include the speculation tax (an adaptation of the BC Housing Affordability Fund plan developed by BC academics to address issues in local real estate markets), an increase in the foreign buyers tax rate, MRDT and PST taxes applied to short term/AirBnB rentals, and an increase on property transfer tax and the school tax rate on the portion of homes valued at over $3M.

Locally, many residents have had questions in particular about the school tax of .2% on the value of a property between $3m and $4m, and .4% on property value above $4m. As some of you may know, we will be holding a community forum at St. James Community Square with information and an open mic for people to discuss this policy.  We expect the remaining tickets for this event to go quickly.   If you want to attend and have not already RSVPed, please use this link to be on the waiting list.  We will contact you with a confirmation: you don’t get a ticket don’t panic.  We will send out instructions via facebook for live streaming of this forum as soon as we can.  Email us directly if you would like us to keep you apprised of this aspect of the forum.

As Attorney General, I’ve been working with our partners at the BC Lottery Corporation, the Gaming Policy Enforcement Branch, and others to crack down on money laundering in BC casinos. Dr. Peter German has completed his report on how we got to this place and it is going through appropriate review to ensure we don’t harm law enforcement investigations or personal privacy before releasing it.  I went to Ottawa in March to ask the Federal Finance Committee to work to dedicate more resources to crack down on tax evasion and money laundering in BC related to the activity we are well aware is taking place in our casinos, and strongly suspect is taking place in our real estate market on a significant level as well.  See here for my testimony:

This session, I’ll be introducing legislation to get ICBC back into the black, providing high quality, affordable insurance to British Columbians, and we’ll be working hard to ensure British Columbia’s interests are protected from the risks of a spill of diluted bitumen by referring a question to the courts about the extent of our ability to regulate in this area in relation to railroads and pipelines.  Initiatives to require a declaration of who actually owns residential property in BC will also be introduced shortly – no more owning property through numbered companies whose sole officer is a lawyer (insulating disclosure of the actual owner of the property).

Thanks to you all for staying involved and in touch.