Eby talks quick start to premiership
In his first 11 days as premier, David Eby stepped in front of the media seven times, announcing over $1.2 billion in funding for new programs and projects, including $500 million for a new affordability credit, $400 million for a new BC Hydro credit, and $230 million for the RCMP.
In the legislature, his government passed two housing bills, the Housing Supply Act and Strata Property Act, which give new Housing Minister Ravi Kahlon extensive powers to push through housing proposals, make municipalities accountable to housing supply targets, and remove age-based restrictions on strata rentals other than those reserved for seniors.
Eby continues to unveil new policies and projects, including a two-year ICBC rate freeze and 90 units of housing for those experiencing homelessness in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside.
“It’s been a fast-paced start for me. That’s what I wanted, because that’s what British Columbians need right now,” Eby told BC Today in a year-end interview. “They want us to really do more on key priority areas around health care, public safety, housing, and cost of living and making sure the economy is secure with the global headwinds that we see coming in.”
Using a surplus with a recession on the horizon
The economy will be key over the next two years. While Eby has a $5.7-billion surplus to work with, he also knows that the economic forecast moving forward is troubling, with the GDP growth rate projected at just 0.4 per cent in 2023.
A potential hitch in the fiscal situation comes as B.C. greets an influx of new residents, including 100,000 in the last year alone. And while he acknowledged this represents a challenge, he also sees it as an opportunity.
“It brings strain on the services, and those services need to be there for British Columbians to make sure that they have a decent standard of life as our province grows,” he explained, mentioning education, health care and childcare needs.
The top priority is “making sure that our carefully managed budget, which has resulted in this positive financial situation for the province, goes to those priorities to make sure that life is not just livable but enjoyable for British Columbians, that we continue to maintain a high standard of living for people,” the premier said.
As for the spring legislation and the provincial budget being tabled in February, Eby said to expect lots of movement on the health and public safety files, as well a specific targeting of short-term rentals to free up more housing for British Columbians.
British Columbians want to see “really tangible progress on these issues,” he said.
“I don’t think they expect us to solve every issue overnight. We’re talking about global supply chain and inflation issues driven by geopolitical relationships between countries thousands of kilometres from here. But they do expect to feel progress and they do expect us to be pointed in the right direction.”
People are looking for action on the issues facing them and their families. My team of determined colleagues will continue the good work we’ve started and deliver results people can see and feel in their communities. pic.twitter.com/ZFbMkTAX4L
— David Eby (@Dave_Eby) December 8, 2022
A family adjustment
On a personal note, Eby said his time in the top job has been an adjustment for his kids, eight-year-old Ezra and three-year-old Iva, to have their dad away for weeks on end or, when working from Vancouver, be picked up by uniformed police officers in the morning.
He said both Ezra and Iva get quite excited about the officers’ presence, while his wife Cailey is still getting used to everything her husband’s new job entails.
But when he’s at home, Eby makes sure he is fully present and focused on his family.
“It’s been a different kind of experience for the family and I’ve really been trying to make sure, like any British Columbian that has a new job that takes them away from home more than they would like, that the impact on the kids and on Cailey is as minimal as possible,” he said.
It’s been a while since I’ve been on the ice, but Ezra and Iva are showing Cailey and me how it’s done. Hope you’re all having a great weekend! pic.twitter.com/qoeu1whktw
— David Eby (@Dave_Eby) December 3, 2022