Making our voice heard: Engaging with BC’s new government

Earlier this month, BC’s NDP government released their first budget which mapped out an initial financial plan for our province. I was, like many of you, happy to see new social spending (even though some bigger promises were noticeably delayed) and the overall reaction to the budget has been mainly positive. Importantly, it also provided some clarity about the NDP’s approach to governing and some initial objectives that have helped inform The Federation’s approach to engaging with our new government.

Because of the work put into The Federation’s election strategy, the February Social Policy Forum, and months of diligent effort by The Federation board and staff team, our organization is well prepared to educate and engage with social care Ministers and Deputies. These efforts are already underway. Over the past few weeks, Federation board members and I have met with Honourable Minister Conroy from MCFD and Honourable Minister Simpson from Social Development and Poverty Reduction.

We spoke with Minister Simpson about employment programs and some of the challenges in serving particularly vulnerable populations. We made clear our interest in (and our hopes for) a poverty reduction plan and a basic income pilot. Minister Conroy is very familiar with the community sector and her level of knowledge resulted in a thoughtful, informed discussion about the challenges currently facing the sector.

Both meetings were positive, productive, and we feel confident that this government understands the importance of caring for the citizens of BC. And I’d like to recognize the effort made by many of our Board Directors who made time to travel to Victoria for these important meetings—sometimes taking multiple days out of their already busy schedules.

In the coming weeks, we will also be meeting with Honourable Minister Chen(Childcare), Honourable Minister Farnworth (Solicitor General), and Honourable Minister Darcy (Mental Health and Addictions). These meetings, combined with our analysis of the budget, are putting The Federation in a strong position to work with the new NDP government. (You can access a recording of our budget analysis webinar on The Federation website.)

However, this does not mean our work is done or that the road ahead will be easy. We cannot become complacent or assume that a sympathetic government will need no encouragement, direction, or reminders of the issues we’re facing and what’s at stake. This is a crucial time to bring issues forward. And the upcoming Select Standing Committee consultations are an important opportunity for us to do just that.

You can be assured that The Federation will be making a presentation and I encourage all of our members to sign up as well. Join us and make clear the key points we have brought forward over the past years—the need for increased funding to community social services, wage parity for the sector, workplace violence, procurement, sector-wide training, and the need for a continuum of services and support for our most vulnerable.

Details about the Select Standing Committee hearings were announced this week. New to the process this year is a consultation portal to register for a public hearing. (You can also make a written, audio, or video submission or complete a survey.) A link to the consultation portal can be found here. The full list of public hearing locations, dates and times is here.

We’ve been preparing for this moment for a long time. I strongly encourage Federation members to attend a public hearing and make a presentation. Let’s take advantage of this opportunity and do our part to make things altogether better for the people of BC.

Rick FitzZaland
Federation Executive Director