Times Colonist

Hor­gan’s to-do: from free bus rides for kids to (maybe) ICBC re­bate

With a broad range of ideas, premier is­sues march­ing or­ders to his new cab­i­net

- LES LEYNE lleyne@times­colonist.com Canada News · Infectious Diseases · Climate Change · Arts · Health Conditions · Ecology · Industrial and Commercial Bank of China · British Columbia · Vancouver · Victoria City · Museums · John Horgan · Selina Robinson · Rob Fleming · George Heyman · David Eby · Mike Farnworth · Financial Services Authority · Community Chest

New mu­se­ums and com­mu­nity cen­tres.

Free bus rides province-wide for chil­dren 12 and un­der, tax-free elec­tric bikes and a pan­demic re­bate on ve­hi­cle in­sur­ance pre­mi­ums (if ICBC can af­ford it).

Race-based data col­lec­tion, a new fund to cope with street dis­or­der and no more plas­tic bags.

Those are a few of the items on the to-do list Premier John Hor­gan is­sued to his new cab­i­net this week. Fol­low­ing stan­dard prac­tice, he wrote man­date let­ters to all 24 of them. The main themes are iden­ti­cal — put peo­ple first, work on In­dige­nous rec­on­cil­i­a­tion, fight cli­mate change and get B.C. through the pan­demic.

But there was also a section in each de­voted to spe­cific tasks min­is­ters are ex­pected to ful­fil. It’s a grab-bag as­sort­ment of ideas ex­pected to de­velop over the four-year term of gov­ern­ment.

The mu­seum-build­ing binge falls to Tourism, Arts and Cul­ture Min­is­ter Me­lanie Mark. In ad­di­tion to con­tin­u­ing the planned re­de­vel­op­ment of the Royal B.C. Mu­seum, she is tasked with con­tin­u­ing the devel­op­ment of a Chi­ne­seCana­dian mu­seum and “start­ing work to cre­ate a first-of-its-kind mu­seum” to doc­u­ment the his­tory, art and con­tri­bu­tions of South Asian peo­ple in B.C.

Progress is also ex­pected on a pro­ject to hon­our the Ja­panese-Cana­dian com­mu­nity by “pro­vid­ing last­ing recog­ni­tion of the trau­matic in­tern­ment of more than 22,000 Ja­pane­seCana­di­ans dur­ing World War II” in li­braries, com­mu­ni­ties and at the B.C. leg­is­la­ture.

She is also di­rected to pro­vide fund­ing to de­liver a re­de­vel­oped state-of-the-art Jewish com­mu­nity cen­tre of Greater Van­cou­ver, com­plete with hun­dreds of child-care spa­ces.

The plas­tic-bag ban will likely ar­rive sooner than the mu­se­ums, as the work is al­ready well un­der­way. Var­i­ous mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties have been con­sid­er­ing it, even though the City of Vic­to­ria’s ini­tial ef­fort was re­buffed by the courts. The fed­eral gov­ern­ment is also aim­ing for such a ban next year.

Cy­cling groups have been lob­by­ing to get the seven per cent pro­vin­cial sales tax lifted on e-bikes and it is now an in­struc­tion to Fi­nance Min­is­ter Selina Robin­son. Reg­u­lar bi­cy­cles are al­ready ex­empt from the PST. Ex­empt­ing e-bikes would save most pur­chasers be­tween $100 and $200.

Hor­gan’s let­ter said it will “help more peo­ple make the switch to ac­tive trans­porta­tion.”

As well, Trans­porta­tion Min­is­ter Rob Flem­ing and En­vi­ron­ment Min­is­ter Ge­orge Hey­man are di­rected to move on mak­ing tran­sit free for chil­dren 12 and un­der. (Vic­to­ria in­tro­duced this a year ago and else­where they’re free if trav­el­ling with a pass-holder.) The ICBC re­bate is con­di­tional. Driv­ers in sev­eral other prov­inces got ve­hi­clein­sur­ance re­bates ear­lier, based on re­duced travel dur­ing lock­down mea­sures. It was ruled out by ICBC be­cause of its fi­nan­cial state, but now it’s back on the ta­ble — maybe.

Re­spon­si­bil­ity for ICBC was shifted from At­tor­ney Gen­eral David Eby to Pub­lic Safety Min­is­ter Mike Farn­worth, and Hor­gan told him to “de­liver a fair deal to B.C. driv­ers by pro­vid­ing COVID-19 pre­mium re­bates from any sur­plus ICBC de­liv­ers dur­ing the pan­demic.”

The key word is “any.” If there is no sur­plus, there will no re­bate.

While Eby drops ICBC, he was given over­all re­spon­si­bil­ity for hous­ing. Both he and Robin­son are now re­spon­si­ble for the condo-in­sur­ance cri­sis. An up­com­ing re­port by the Fi­nan­cial Ser­vices Au­thor­ity will dic­tate the gov­ern­ment’s re­sponse, but Hor­gan put one spe­cific idea on the back burner.

He told both min­is­ters that if condo-in­sur­ance pre­mi­ums “have not cor­rected by the end of 2021, ex­plore a pub­lic strata in­sur­ance op­tion.”

That gives the in­sur­ance in­dus­try a full year to re­treat from the astro­nom­i­cal in­creases im­posed this year on many build­ings, be­fore the gov­ern­ment con­sid­ers tak­ing that line of busi­ness away from them.

Eby is also told to in­tro­duce leg­is­la­tion to pave the way for race-based data col­lec­tion to mod­ern­ize sec­tors such as polic­ing, health and ed­u­ca­tion. B.C. gen­er­ally main­tains In­dige­nous in­for­ma­tion, but col­lect­ing more is seen as a way of re­duc­ing sys­temic dis­crim­i­na­tion.

Mu­nic­i­pal Af­fairs Min­is­ter Josie Os­borne is tasked with over­see­ing a new Strength­en­ing Com­mu­nity Fund from which cities and towns can draw to help tackle street dis­or­der.

Hor­gan’s out­line said it will help with “clean­li­ness and pub­lic safety and im­prove their abil­ity to re­spond to chal­lenges posed to busi­nesses and neigh­bour­hoods by home­less­ness.”

His last bit of ad­vice to min­is­ters: Be ready for any­thing. “Our work must con­tin­u­ally evolve to meet chang­ing needs.”

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