This is my favourite time of year in Victoria. Not only are the cherry blossoms appearing, but my legislative colleagues and I get to roll up our sleeves and get down to work for the start of the spring session of the Legislature.
Activity got underway in a big way Feb. 10 with the speech from the throne, which outlined the government’s plan for the coming year. That was followed a week later by budget day Feb. 17.
We are all proud of the fact that B.C. is the only jurisdiction in Canada to deliver a surplus budget this year. Every other government in Canada looks at us with envy.
For that, we can thank our province’s diversified economy. Unlike our friends in Alberta, whose economy is tied to the oil industry and is at the mercy of the drop in world oil prices, demand for B.C.’s products internationally remains strong.
For example, over the past dozen years, we have seen a 3,000 per cent increase in the value of B.C. softwood lumber exports to China. That’s a huge jump and it makes us less dependent on conditions in the U.S., which is still our largest market for softwood lumber, the stuff used in home construction.
Our government’s fiscal responsibility means we are able to spend more money on the things people really care about – health care and education.
We’re ensuring Vernon residents continue to have access to the highest levels of health care. This month, our government announced the creation of 85 new residential care beds in Vernon to improve care for our growing population of seniors.
And this fall, we expect to see the opening of the top two floors of the Polson Tower at Vernon Jubilee Hospital.
Our commitment to health care is a model for the world to copy. The Conference Board of Canada ranks B.C. No. 1 in Canada on health performance, and on the world stage, only Switzerland and Sweden ranked higher than our province.
We’re also helping single parents in this budget. As of Sept. 1, low-income single parents will be fully exempted from income assistance calculations, meaning they’ll get to keep every dollar of their child-support payments.
Yes, for a politician it is a good time to be in Victoria. It is also a very good time to be a resident of Vernon-Monashee.