(Premier is 4th from left in back row, I'm 1st on right side)
The #1 issue that came up was the need for affordable childcare - it's so expensive for families, there are long wait lists, and a lack of facilities. So many parents stay home with their kids because they can't afford daycare, or their pay cheque would go to pay for childcare. (Childcare for Vancouverites can be equal to, or higher than, their rents/mortgages. How is it for the rest of the Province?) The Premier talked about how the Quebec model won't work in BC because Quebec has higher taxes, and she's unwilling to raise BC taxes. She suggested a scaled model based on salary/income. One point she made was that voters seem to care about childcare only when their kids are babies to 5 years old, and then it's not a concern any longer.
Affordable housing was the runner up to childcare - Vancouver is a very expensive city to live in, and the Premier mentioned moving to the Tri-Cities as a way to purchase a house. I like living in the heart of the city, and we rent to be able to do this. I would like to be able to afford to rent a 3 bedroom apartment however.... Other Bloggers who own small apartments or houses mentioned their desire to see listings for places under 800,000.... (I know that elsewhere in the Province housing prices are vastly different, but the women in the room were speaking about Vancouver specifically.) The Premier said that there is little government can do to change the market. One idea she had to ease cost with the purchase of properties was for government to remove purchase tax and transfer tax.
Other topics that came up were:
- Creation of micro loans for business start up (at-home parents)
- Education grants for those who want/need to upgrade before re-entering the work force
- More access to services for special needs children
- Investment into Tech sector so that Entrepreneurs/Bloggers can qualify for business grants/tax credits
- Health Care topics like - Mammograms and Nurse home visits post birth
- Concern over Teacher job action was stated but not discussed - that's a subject for another time
Families First is the mandate of Premier Christy Clark, and we'll see if anything comes from our relating our concerns about raising families in this Province. Regardless of how I feel about what kind of a job the Premier is doing - or being personally affected by issues such as childcare, housing affordability, Teacher job action, etc. - I am grateful that I was asked to be a part of the discussion.