Courtenay-Comox MLA Ronna-Rae Leonard says the NDP government is headed in the right direction.

Leonard says Tuesday’s Throne Speech shows the ‘significant’ progress that the NDP has made when it comes to reconciliation.

On Nov. 26, B.C. became the first province in Canada to enshrine the human rights of Indigenous peoples in law. 

That came after Bill 41, the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples act, passed unanimously.

“We know that there is still obviously a lot more to be done in terms of reconciliation and meeting the needs of people in the north and reconciling some of the differences that there are,” Leonard said.

She added that this isn’t going to happen overnight, but that the NDP government has set the stage for reconciliation to continue forward.

Moving on to affordable housing, Leonard pointed to Shelter Aid For Elderly Renters (SAFER), as well as the rental assistance program as positive initiatives.

Leonard said she’s very proud to be part of the rental housing task force and making recommendations that are “making way for more security of  tenure for renters and more security for landlords, as well.”

The speech also mentioned ‘major reforms to get ICBC out of the red.’

She also said these changes are steps in the right direction.

“It was very difficult for the attorney general to be able to proceed in a way that is going to make a difference. I think he’s been quite successful. It’s been a difficult challenge and I’m impressed that the measures that are now being introduced are going to lead not only to no increase in rates, but actually a reduction in rates in 2021.”

The speech also included ‘making big investments in public health care, and with it, the health of every British Columbian.’

It points out that in July 2017, this government has moved forward on 13 hospital projects, and opened 12 urgent and primary care centres.

In the first year of its diagnostic strategy, it says the government exceeded its targets for MRI exams, with nearly 44,000 more performed throughout B.C. compared to 2017-18.

“The whole issue of healthcare and being able to provide that faster, better care, is another multi-piece puzzle,” Leonard said.

“One of the challenges that we have, at least in the Comox Valley, is that a large percentage of the people taking up beds in hospitals are actually waiting for something to move out of the hospital and into the community, whether it’s into long term care or other circumstances.”

She said part of the work is providing those services in the community. 

She pointed to the Comox Valley soon having access to a new long-term care facility that will provide 126 publicly-funded long-term and hospice care beds.

“There is more coming in that regard,” Leonard said. “We are one of the primary care centres that will be rolling out to be able to provide that faster, better care in the community.”

Leonard added that there are more hip and knee surgeries being done across the province which she said “matter to an awful lot of British Columbians.”

She said B.C. needs more healthcare professionals.

To that end, she said the province is recruiting more doctors and nurses and to that end, and offering more training in the field by creating educational spaces including at North Island College and St. Joseph’s.

“These are the sorts of things that are going to help us grow the healthcare professionals that we actually need, to be able to provide the services because it’s not just about the buildings or the equipment, it’s about the people who deliver those services,” Leonard said.

She said the NDP government has recognized that it has “great vision to take a new direction and we are moving in that direction.”

She compares the NDP’s first two-and-half-years as government to diving into the deep end of a pool.

“It’s going to take a while to get back up to the surface,” Leonard said. “We’ve accomplished a lot but there is just so much more to do and (we’re) looking to getting up to the surface and actually feeling that success. People are feeling that now, but more people will be feeling it as we continue on this road to make life more affordable and provide the services people need, and help our communities become more sustainable and prosper together.”