Black Press legislative columnist Tom Fletcher sat down with Premier John Horgan to talk about his plans for 2018. Video of the interview is below, with a transcript of the premier’s comments on the NDP government’s plans for housing and child care.
TF: You made an aggressive campaign promise about housing. How is that going to look in 2018?
JH: We’ll have a comprehensive housing strategy that will involve the whole continuum of housing, not-for-profit, purpose-built rental housing, market housing.
We’re not building the housing. The public has to understand it’s not about government building 100,000 homes. It’s about government working with the development community, working with municipalities who regulate land use and implement changes in policy to help build more spaces or more density. We need to work together on this, and if we don’t, we’re going to continue to have a crisis.
We’ll be addressing the demand side as well, addressing the speculation in the marketplace. Monies from elsewhere have come into our housing market and distorted it to the point where people in the community can’t afford to live there. We need to address that, and it’s not going to be as simple as waving a magic wand or snapping your fingers. It’s going to be a sensitive intervention, but we need to correct the challenge we have where people are vacating the cities rather than making them vibrant.
TF: You have a similarly aggressive plan regarding child care. Same question, what can we expect in 2018?
JH: We’ll have a better program if we have federal participation, but we will have a program regardless. And I think some people have characterized that as, ‘well if the feds don’t show up, there will be no child care plan.’ We need to address this. This was the number two issue when I talked to people in the election campaign. First and foremost in the Lower Mainland it was housing, and across B.C., families can’t find someone to care for their kids. And if you can’t find someone to care for your kids in an affordable, safe environment, you’re going to stay home. That removes talent and innovation from the market and from the economy, and it makes it more difficult for families to get ahead. So I want to deliver on this commitment and I’m going to do it with or without the federal government. It’s going to be a key part of our budget in February.
[Finance Minister] Carole James and [Minister of State for Child Care] Katrina Chen are working diligently to make sure we’ve got the building blocks in place. We’ve already added to the number of child care spaces, another 3,500 spaces were announced across the province just a few weeks ago. We have a long distance to go, but it’s a program that I believe is [overdue]. We need to deliver child care for our citizens. That’s what jurisdictions in Scandinavia and other European countries have done as a matter of course.
TF: On the pending marijuana legalization, Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth tells us that there are 18 separate provincial laws that have to be changed. Is this going to consume the whole spring session of the legislature, or interfere with things like housing and tax changes?
JH: I’m hopeful that’s not the case. Mike is responsible for shepherding through this revolutionary change in our cannabis laws and regulations here in B.C. This is a direction from the federal government, and that leaves us the responsibility of regulating distribution.
Tom Fletcher is B.C. legislature reporter and columnist for Black Press. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org