The BC Green Party has outlined billions of dollars in new spending to enhance the education system, income security, childcare and affordable housing if elected on Oct. 24.
Leader Sonia Furstenau released the party’s platform on Wednesday with the hope of parlaying her success in the televised debate on Tuesday night to seats in the legislature. The party won three seats in 2017, up from one in 2013.
The total plan includes $10 billion in spending on new initiatives over three years.
The Greens would start the integration of the childcare and education sectors, with $300 million in new funding to begin the phase-in of up to 25 hours in free early childhood education programs per week for three- and four-year-olds and rising to $550 million as capacity expands.
Furstenau committed to provide $100 million in new funding to create a new capital program in the Ministry of Education to renovate and add to existing schools to support early childhood educator spaces.
The platform described a plan to fund operating grants for school districts to 100 per cent of the grants received in the 2019/2020 school year. The funding is aimed to ensure enrollment during COVID-19 does not compromise staffing or funding.
Some school districts have seen a significant drop off in enrollment, with international students not able to enter the country.
The Greens are also promising to ensure every school district can develop a “credible and robust” remote learning and hybrid learning option.
“COVID-19 has complicated the challenges that already existed, adding new stressors to our education system,” the platform reads.
“While some resources have been put in place, not enough has been done to address the fears and challenges in our system. Parents shouldn’t have to feel that they have to choose between their child’s safety and the quality of the education they receive.”
The plan makes numerous references to supporting mental health, including $24 million in new funding to enhance the number of counsellors in schools, starting with the current school year.
The party is also working on a plan to implement a province-wide program to address racism in schools, and commit to additional ongoing funding to deepen the work of reconciliation and Indigenous education.
Income security has been a Green priority for years, and the party continues to push for a basic income for youth aging out of government care and transitioning towards basic income. The first steps would include increasing income support levels, beginning with making the $300 crisis supplement permanent and indexing assistance to inflation.
The Greens would also establish a permanent Fair Wages Commission to recommend “consistent and predictable” increases in the minimum wage.
On housing, the party is focused on co-ops and expanding the “missing middle,” such as townhouses and triplexes, and establishing a capital fund to support the acquisition and maintenance of rental housing.
The party is promising to close the bare trust loophole and loopholes in the speculation tax that allow too many exemptions for foreign owners and satellite families. The platform includes a rental supplement with a means-tested grant that applies to low and moderate income earners who are paying more than 30 per cent of their income in rent.
COVID-19 and the economy also playing a crucial role in the Green plan. Furstenau would allocate $300 million to create a six-month rent subsidy program for small businesses and cover 25 per cent of rental costs for qualifying businesses.
The party would also retool the provincial grant program to focus on supporting small tourism operators and immediately work with industry to accelerate the timeline to ensure grant money can start to flow right away.
“For tourism operators, the challenges have been exacerbated by the border closure and travel bans. Many are wondering how they can navigate the winter, when the revenues they usually count on in the summertime never arrived, and next year’s bookings have yet to materialize,” the platform reads.
“The simple fact is that the provincial government has not done enough to address the challenges that are facing our small business and tourism sectors.”
© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.