Families First Agenda for British Columbia

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1 Families First Agenda for British Columbia

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3 Table of Contents MESSAGE FROM THE PREMIER... 3 EXECUTIVE SUMMARY... 5 FAMILY AFFORDABILITY... 5 SUPPORTING VULNERABLE FAMILIES... 6 SAFE COMMUNITIES, STRONG FAMILIES... 6 INTRODUCTION... 9 THE THREE PILLARS OF THE FAMILIES FIRST AGENDA... 9 FAMILY AFFORDABILITY SUPPORTING BRITISH COLUMBIA S CHILDREN SUPPORTING BRITISH COLUMBIA S STUDENTS SUPPORTING BRITISH COLUMBIA S SENIORS SUPPORTING VULNERABLE FAMILIES HELPING VULNERABLE CHILDREN GET A GOOD START ADDRESSING MENTAL ILLNESS AND ADDICTION IMPROVING HOUSING FOR LOW-INCOME FAMILIES AND BRITISH COLUMBIANS EXPERIENCING HOMELESSNESS... HELPING FAMILIES RISE OUT OF POVERTY SUPPORTING SENIORS AT RISK SAFE COMMUNITIES, STRONG FAMILIES POLICING AND COMMUNITY SAFETY... PROTECTING FAMILIES ROAD SAFETY CONCLUSION... 45

4 Families are as diverse as our great province, and they are bound together by love and by an unshakeable commitment to supporting each other. Families make our communities stronger.

5 Message from the Premier On March 14, 2011, I was sworn in as your Premier with a key objective: to put families first. Our government has made significant progress on putting families first, and we will do more. We know that every family wants to have the opportunity to grow, prosper and live in a safe community. Our government is acting to ensure families have the best ability to succeed with our focus on maintaining British Columbia s economic strength. A good-paying, stable and secure job is one of the most important elements of a healthy, happy and strong family. That is why I remain focussed on growing our economy, to grow these opportunities for families in British Columbia. We are acting with our Families First Agenda to support vulnerable families, to make our communities safer and to make life more affordable for families. The policies laid out in this plan are designed to help families in B.C. continue to progress and thrive. The challenges that B.C. families face are linked to the issues we face together as a society: keeping the cost of government affordable; an aging population; affordable housing and services; protecting vulnerable families and children; and ensuring safe streets and communities. We are addressing these issues with fresh ideas and steadfast determination. Like the B.C. Jobs Plan, we have built this plan on our commitment to a balanced budget and prudent fiscal management. THE HONOURABLE CHRISTY CLARK PREMIER OF BRITISH COLUMBIA The Families First Agenda is the next step in our work to support families. It highlights what we have accomplished to strengthen B.C. families, and shows the actions we are taking to build on these initiatives as we move forward. It also identifies important areas where we are looking for more feedback from British Columbians, to ensure that good ideas are translated into further actions that meet the needs of citizens. That is our approach to open government we are here to listen, to act on that input, and we will report back with a summary of these consultations over the course of the fall. The ideas generated from this engagement will inform future budget priorities. Jobs, Families and Open Government are our government s three priorities. This Families First Agenda, built on the foundation of our Jobs Plan and with opportunities for British Columbians to provide input, reflects all three of those priorities. I invite you to join us in implementing and expanding this agenda, with your ideas and your commitment to a better British Columbia. FAMILIES FIRST AGENDA FOR BRITISH COLUMBIA [ 3 ]

6 Our priorities as a government must reflect those of our citizens, and family is at the centre of each of our lives, no matter how you define your family. We all need a circle of support to help us succeed.

7 Executive Summary Jobs, Families and Open Government. Those are the three priorities of our government. This agenda lays out what we have done, what we are doing and areas where we intend to do more for families. It is an agenda that demonstrates our commitment to put Families First. The Families First Agenda for British Columbia is built on the foundation of Canada Starts Here: The BC Jobs Plan and our commitment to fiscal responsibility and a balanced budget by 2013/14. On that foundation the Families First Agenda has three pillars: Family Affordability»»» Supporting Vulnerable Families» Safe Communities, Strong Families FAMILY AFFORDABILITY Being a fiscally responsible government is essential to ensuring B.C. thrives. Our government s work to keep taxes low and government spending under control has brought substantial benefits to B.C. families. Since 2001, government has reduced provincial personal income taxes for most taxpayers by 37 per cent or more and taken steps so that an additional 325,000 people no longer pay any B.C. income tax. In total, more than one million modest-income British Columbians pay no provincial income tax at all. With the Families First Agenda, our government is: Introducing a student loan repayment assistance program (RAP). RAP will provide better supports for people on low income having trouble repaying students loans because of reduced income. It is expected to assist approximately 20,000 borrowers annually.»» Launching a one student/ one loan approach in B.C. This approach makes it easier to apply for and pay off student loans, with one set of rules and forms, and a single point of contact for the loan. Implementing an Aboriginal Post-Secondary Education and Training Policy Framework and Action Plan. This strategy aims to close the educational gap for aboriginal learners. Our government has done a lot to make life affordable in B.C., and we know that raising a family is an exciting and, often, an expensive challenge. That is why we are continuing to look at every possible means to help make life more affordable for British Columbians. With input from citizens, we will continue to find new and innovative ways to make life more affordable for B.C. families. We are also seeking ideas about our StrongStart program, input on the best approaches to early childhood development and child care, the best ways to save for education and training, and how to help keep families, including seniors, active and healthy. FAMILIES FIRST AGENDA FOR BRITISH COLUMBIA [ 5 ]

8 SUPPORTING VULNERABLE FAMILIES Our duty to protect and care for B.C. s most vulnerable citizens is one that our government takes very seriously. We are committed to implementing supports that help all British Columbians share in the benefits as our economy continues to grow. With our Families First Agenda, we are introducing balanced reforms to income assistance policies. Families First policy changes will better harmonize our programs and policies for families on income assistance with other jurisdictions across Canada. These changes include increasing the school start-up supplement, providing dental benefits for children of families on hardship assistance, matching the family bonus top-up rate to the federal amount and exempting lump-sum family bonus payments less family bonus top-up amounts provided to the family. A monthly earnings exemption for expected-to-work clients will help them develop job skills, take advantage of short-term or temporary work opportunities, and better provide for their families while receiving assistance. To help families avoid the cycle of income assistance dependence, we have expanded the application and intensity of work search requirements. Modest asset increases and elimination of separate limits on cash assets will help families transition more easily from income assistance back to self-sufficiency. Changes to assistance for individuals with disabilities will help them lead more independent lives and give their families more opportunities to provide financial support and stability though increases to trust fund limits. For those who are able to work, earning exemptions have been increased to $800 for individuals receiving disability assistance and $1,600 for couples who are both receiving disability assistance, with the flexibility to calculate earnings on an annual basis. To help vulnerable families, our government is actively seeking feedback from British Columbians, soliciting best ideas about how to help those living with mental illness and addictions, how to plan for the future when a family member is diagnosed with dementia, and how to best plan for end of life. SAFE COMMUNITIES, STRONG FAMILIES Ensuring that families are protected and feel safe at home and in their communities is an important part of putting families first in British Columbia. Our government is committed to measures that ensure safe communities and protect our sense of community. We have taken on crime and criminals through several targeted initiatives such as our guns and gangs program and our approach to antihuman trafficking training, and we have seen tremendous success. [ 6 ] FAMILIES FIRST AGENDA FOR BRITISH COLUMBIA

9 With our Families First Agenda, we are going further: Extending the Guns and Gangs Prevention Strategy with a commitment of $66 million over three years.»» Expanding the number of Justice Access Centres in the province, which provide front-end justice information and services such as dispute resolution and legal advice to help solve family and civil justice problems faster and more effectively. Plans to propose a new Community Safety Act that will provide government the authority to respond to unlawful activities that impact neighbours. Moving forward with rapid implementation of the new Family Law Act. Expanding the number of child-protection mediators, who work with the families to establish the best interests of children when families break up. Our government is providing protection to families and vulnerable British Columbians by implementing more measures to prevent crime and violence. We will continue to look at ways to make the justice system more effective and accessible, and are seeking input on what community safety means to British Columbians, what would help citizens to feel safer in their communities, and ideas to improve policing in the province. Significant progress has been made on measures to support B.C. families. Despite economic, social and fiscal pressures around the globe, we are focused on ensuring our province thrives, and that British Columbians have the jobs and opportunities they need to succeed. FAMILIES FIRST AGENDA FOR BRITISH COLUMBIA [ 7 ]

10 Investing in the health and well-being of families is essential to the future growth and success of British Columbia.

11 Introduction In times of global economic uncertainty, our government must do even more to help families make ends meet, help the most vulnerable among us, and keep our communities safe. We have introduced focused measures to support families, grounded in our commitment to fiscal responsibility. We have made targeted investments to keep family life affordable and support those most in need. We are making changes to existing programs as necessary, to ensure we meet the needs of British Columbians and make a difference in their lives, while also maintaining our commitment to a balanced budget. And we will do more. We will consult with British Columbians on key elements of the Families First Agenda. The ideas generated will inform the decision-making process for our budget next year and for future changes to programs and services as resources become available. THE THREE PILLARS OF THE FAMILIES FIRST AGENDA Our government s Families First Agenda is built on three pillars: Family Affordability»»» Supporting Vulnerable Families» Safe Communities, Strong Families In this Families First Agenda for British Columbia, we expand on each of these pillars, highlight the results of our work so far, and explain what our government is and will be doing to build on these achievements. We are also reaching out to British Columbians to discuss the issues that matter most to them and get advice on how to help families get ahead. By inviting British Columbians to participate in government decision-making, we ensure we are operating with higher levels of efficiency, accountability and transparency. Our commitment to open government is a commitment to listening to people and acting on their input. That s why we are using all the tools at our disposal to reach out to B.C. families. FAMILIES FIRST AGENDA FOR BRITISH COLUMBIA [ 9 ]

12 Since 2001, B.C. has reduced provincial personal income taxes for most taxpayers by 37 per cent or more, and an additional 325,000 people no longer pay any B.C. income tax.

13 Family Affordability Since 2001, B.C. has reduced provincial personal income taxes for most taxpayers by 37 per cent or more, and an additional 325,000 people no longer pay any B.C. income tax. In total, more than one million British Columbians pay no provincial income tax, from a total of more than three million British Columbians who file tax returns. Our government has implemented measures so that individuals can earn at least $19,000 before paying any provincial personal income tax at all, and B.C. currently has the lowest provincial personal income taxes in Canada for individuals earning up to $120,000 a year. When all taxes are considered, British Columbians have among the lowest tax burdens in the country. (See graphic on page 12.) Our government s focus on keeping taxes low and government spending under control is reinforced by the actions identified in this pillar of the Families First Agenda. Raising a family is an exciting challenge. But for some families, it can be difficult to tend to things that others take for granted like packing a healthy lunch each day. We are continuing to look at every possible means to help make life more affordable for British Columbians. PERSONAL INCOME TAX REDUCTIONS SINCE 2001 Taxes 2001 Taxes 2012 Total Decrease 2001 vs 2012 SENIOR COUPLE ($40,000) $828 $0 -$828 (-100%) SINGLE INDIVIDUAL ($20,000) $765 $41 -$724 (-95%) SINGLE INDIVIDUAL ($50,000) $3,575 $2,139 -$1,436 (-40%) FAMILY OF 4 ($70,000) $4,339 $2,181 -$2,158 (-50%) FAMILIES FIRST AGENDA FOR BRITISH COLUMBIA [ 11 ]

14 British Columbia families generally have one of the lowest overall provincial tax burdens in Canada, including income taxes, consumption taxes, property taxes, health care premiums and payroll taxes. Provincial Income Tax: $3,085 TAXES IN B.C. HOW WE MEASURE UP 2012 BREAKDOWN OF TOTAL BC TAX: $9,614 Net Property Tax: $2,996 Sales Tax: $1,602 Total Provincial Tax $7,482 $9, COMPARISON OF PROVINCIAL TAXES BY PROVINCE $9,755 TWO-INCOME FAMILY OF 4 $90,000 INCOME $12,262 $12,368 $12,720 $12,765 $13,076 $13,501 $17,796 SOURCE: MINISTRY OF FINANCE, BUDGET 2012 Fuel Tax: $218 Net Carbon Tax: $177 Health Care Premiums: $1,536 AB BC SK PEI NL MB NB ON NS QC 2012 BREAKDOWN OF TOTAL BC TAX: $6,388 Provincial Income Tax: $1,190 TWO-INCOME FAMILY OF 4 $60,000 INCOME Net Property Tax: $2,026 Sales Tax: $1,262 Fuel Tax: $218 Net Carbon Tax: $156 Total Provincial Tax $3, COMPARISON OF PROVINCIAL TAXES BY PROVINCE $8,033 $8,146 $8,278 $7,726 $7,918 $7,944 $6,388 $5,157 $9,584 Health Care Premiums: $1,536 AB SK BC NB ON NL MB PEI NS QC 2012 BREAKDOWN OF TOTAL BC TAX: $7,663 SINGLE INDIVIDUAL $80,000 INCOME Provincial Income Tax: $3,964 Net Property Tax: $1,206 Total Provincial Tax 2012 COMPARISON OF PROVINCIAL TAXES BY PROVINCE $13,947 $14,053 $12,230 $12,258 $12,351 $10,770 $10,906 $19,430 Sales Tax: $1,368 $7,663 $7,713 Fuel Tax: $218 Net Carbon Tax: $139 Health Care Premiums: $ BREAKDOWN OF TOTAL BC TAX: $2,545 Provincial Income Tax: $0 Health Care Premiums: $0 BC AB NB SK NL ON PEI NS MB QC SENIOR COUPLE EQUAL PENSIONS $30,000 INCOME Net Property Tax: $1,751 Total Provincial Tax $2, COMPARISON OF PROVINCIAL TAXES BY PROVINCE $4,048 $4,129 $4,004 $3,187 $3,371 $3,141 $2,545 $2,662 $4,443 Sales Tax: $749 Fuel Tax: $145 Net Carbon Tax: -$100 AB BC MB ON SK NL PEI NS NB QC [ 12 ] FAMILIES FIRST AGENDA FOR BRITISH COLUMBIA

15 Over the past decade, our government has relieved the overall tax burden for many families. For example, a senior couple with income of $40,000 has seen their tax burden reduced to zero. A single individual with income of $20,000 now pays 95 per cent less. A family of four earning $70,000 now pays 50 per cent less income tax than they did in In recent weeks, our government has made bold decisions to support affordability. We directed the British Columbia Utilities Commission to reduce BC Hydro s rate increases over three years by 50 per cent. And we are ending AirCare requirements for passenger cars and trucks as of December 31, To help low- and modest-income British Columbians with their costs, we provide the B.C. Low Income Climate Action Tax Credit of up to $ for adults and $34.50 for children. These credits are paid quarterly each January, April, July and October. For example, this means that a low- or modest-income family of four can receive up to $300 per year in cash to help cover living expenses. We ve also introduced two new credits for families with children. With the new, nonrefundable children s fitness and arts credits, families can claim up to $500 in eligible fitness expenses and an additional $500 in eligible arts expenses per child. This is an investment in the health and well-being of B.C. families, and supports the development of new skills and interests that can last a lifetime. The Home Owner Grant Program is a property tax assistance program offered by our government that helps reduce the residential property tax British Columbians pay each year on their principal residences. The grant provides a maximum reduction in residential property taxes of $570. An additional grant of $275 for a total of $845 is available if the homeowner is 65 or over, permanently disabled, or an eligible veteran. The Northern and Rural Area Homeowner Benefit, which took effect in 2011, increases the home owner grant by up to $200 for home owners living outside of the Capital, Greater Vancouver and Fraser Valley regional districts. Property Tax Deferment is a low-interest loan program that assists qualifying B.C. homeowners in paying the annual property taxes on their principal residences. Our government provides property tax deferral options for qualified individuals, including persons with a disability. The deferment programs are low-interest loan programs that allow qualifying residents to defer all or part of their property taxes until they sell or transfer ownership of their home, or it becomes part of an estate. Application forms are available when property tax notices are issued each spring. Our government has also implemented a number of supports that are targeted to the special circumstances of living in various regions of British Columbia. In the case of health care, many citizens pay insurance premiums to the Medical Services Plan (MSP). However, there are built-in protections for lower-income British Columbians to help ensure the program is income-sensitive. FAMILIES FIRST AGENDA FOR BRITISH COLUMBIA [ 13 ]

16 Our government is proud to have implemented allday kindergarten in September 2011, extending the benefits of the $327 million program to 37,176 kindergarten students across British Columbia. To support this expansion, we increased annual funding by $129 million and invested an additional $144 million in capital funding for 713 new kindergarten classrooms. As of December 31, 2011, there were nearly one million B.C. residents subsidized by the MSP premium assistance programs. More than 800,000 individuals and families pay no MSP premiums at all, with the balance receiving partial subsidies. MSP Premium Assistance was enhanced in January 2010, to ensure that MSP rates in 2012 remain lower than they were in 2009 for those who receive premium assistance. In addition to keeping British Columbia a low-tax jurisdiction and providing support to keep insurance premiums affordable, our government also provides targeted tax relief in important areas that make a difference in the lives of citizens and in the provincial economy. The B.C. First-Time New Home Buyers Bonus is a new temporary measure designed to provide relief during the transition period back to the Provincial Sales Tax (PST), for families and individuals who are purchasing their first home and will assist the residential construction industry by encouraging purchases of newly constructed homes. The bonus is calculated as five per cent of the purchase price of the home up to a maximum bonus of $10,000. The bonus is phased-out for individuals and families with income over $150,000. To assist B.C. families and the residential construction industry during the transition to PST, the B.C. Harmonized Sales Tax (HST) New Housing Rebate threshold has increased from $525,000 to $850,000 for eligible new housing, where the HST is payable on or after April 1, 2012 and before April 1, The maximum rebate available to purchasers has increased from $26,250 to $42,500. And for workers and communities in B.C. that depend on the residential recreational development industry as B.C. transitions from HST back to PST, our government is providing a grant of up to $42,500 to those buying new residential housing for use as a secondary or recreational residence. This applies in qualifying areas of the province outside the Capital Regional District and the Greater Vancouver Regional District. An important part of affordability is convenience, and our government wants to make life as convenient as possible for families across the province. IN YOUR COMMUNITY servicebc.gov.bc.ca ONLINE gov.bc.ca WHEN YOU NEED IT healthlinkbc.ca drivebc.ca env.gov.bc.ca/bcparks/reserve BRITISH COLUMBIA IS SAVING FAMILIES TIME WHEN THEY NEED GOVERNMENT SERVICES. [ 14 ] FAMILIES FIRST AGENDA FOR BRITISH COLUMBIA

17 We are working to co-locate services and community resources, and we are providing support for initiatives including balanced school calendars with earlier/ later starts, before- and after-school care, and use of school facilities within and outside of school hours. Our government believes there will always be more we can do to help keep life affordable for British Columbians, and we are looking for feedback from British Columbians on what will help them in their daily lives. We know that there are things we haven t even thought of yet ideas for targeted and affordable actions to support affordability and we want to unlock that knowledge and insight from people around the province. As we work to help keep family life affordable in British Columbia, our government is seeking input from British Columbians on what measures government can take to keep personal taxes as low as possible by keeping the cost of government down. QUESTIONS FOR INPUT FROM BRITISH COLUMBIANS: Are there areas where government spends money that you think could be spent more effectively or reduced to keep life affordable for British Columbians? In 2012/13 the Province is projecting to spend almost $44 billion; of which approximately 41 per cent is allocated to health care; 14 per cent is allocated to elementary and secondary education; 12 per cent is allocated to post-secondary education and 9 per cent is allocated to social services (i.e. social assistance and child welfare). Do you think government has allocated the right level of resources to each of these priority areas? SUPPORTING BRITISH COLUMBIA S CHILDREN Our government is committed to children in this province, and we have followed research showing that early interventions are the best way to ensure kids get the best possible start in life. Research shows that a high-quality, play-based kindergarten program has long-term benefits for children s academic and social skills and helps them to succeed in school and in life. So our government is proud to have finished implementing all-day kindergarten in September 2011, with an annual investment of $129 million. We also invested $144 million in capital funding for 713 new kindergarten classrooms, and in September 2011 there were a total of 37,176 students enrolled in kindergarten in British Columbia ADVANCING SUPPORTS IN EARLY CHILDHOOD Our government invests more than $1 billion every year on early learning and childhood development initiatives, services and supports. We remain steadfast in our commitment to children s early years. FAMILIES FIRST AGENDA FOR BRITISH COLUMBIA [ 15 ]

18 Strengthening supports for children is a key element of our government s commitment to families. By providing children and their families with support, we can help ensure that they have every opportunity to build the future of their dreams. The B.C. Healthy Kids Program helps low-income families with the costs of basic dental care and prescription eyewear for their children. Eligible clients include dependent children under 19 years of age who receive MSP premium assistance from our government. These supports include: Automatic registration once a family is approved for premium assistance by MSP;»» Prescription eye glasses once a year.» Access to preventable and restorative dental care;» Up to $1,400 of basic dental services every two years; and Our StrongStart B.C. early learning programs also provide school-based early learning services for adults and their young children, led by qualified early childhood educators. Our government has received positive feedback on the quality and impact of StrongStart, and we want to know if we can make it even better. QUESTIONS FOR INPUT FROM BRITISH COLUMBIANS: Have you attended a StrongStart centre? If so, do you have suggestions on how we might improve this program? If you have attended a StrongStart centre, are there improvements you would recommend to the facility or resources? Are you able to access a StrongStart centre near where you live? Is there sufficient capacity at the StrongStart centre you attend? Quality child-care spaces are essential to providing children a head start and a nurturing environment while parents are at work. In addition to introducing all-day kindergarten, our government has increased the number of child-care spaces in British Columbia by nearly 40 per cent since 2003/04, with more than 100,000 licensed child care spaces receiving ongoing government funding. A key element of our families-focused agenda is improving supports for children and their parents. We want to build on our recent child-care forum by reaching out to British Columbians across the province to hear about what measures may be available to help make life more affordable for families with young children. [ 16 ] FAMILIES FIRST AGENDA FOR BRITISH COLUMBIA

19 QUESTIONS FOR INPUT FROM BRITISH COLUMBIANS: What improvements would you suggest to make our early childhood development programs better meet your needs? What could we do better to provide you with the information you need on early childhood development programs? What could we do to better provide you with information you need on child-care options and availability? What ideas do you have to improve the range and choice for parents caring for young children that would better meet the needs of your family? What barriers could governments remove to make child care more accessible? SUPPORTING BRITISH COLUMBIA S STUDENTS Supporting students is of utmost importance to help B.C. families and communities thrive. As the next generation of innovators and skilled workers, our students are our future. This year, our government s budget for education is $5.3 billion a 29-per-cent increase since 2000/2001 even during a period of time when student enrolment has dropped by more than 63,000 students. Since 2001, our government has spent more than $2.1 billion to complete 93 new and replacement schools, 150 additions, 27 renovations and 22 site acquisitions. And we have spent more than $790 million on school seismic upgrades in 37 B.C. school districts. This year, our government s budget for education is $5.3 billion a 29-percent increase since 2000/2001, even during a period of time when student enrolment has dropped by more than 63,000 students. Since 2001, our government has spent more than $2.1 billion to complete 93 new and replacement schools, 150 additions, 27 renovations and 22 site acquisitions. And we have spent more than $790 million on school seismic upgrades in 37 B.C. school districts. Our government also supports students with efforts like the school fruit and veggie program. This program provides B.C.-grown fresh fruit and vegetable snacks to children in all grades and was recently expanded with an additional $1-million investment. In 2012/13, we are investing approximately $866 million in public and independent schools, specifically to support students with special needs. Over the next three years, an additional $195 million is being invested through the Learning Improvement Fund to support public school students. We are working to re-shape how we undertake education for students with special needs and are considering a range of ideas, driven by the input of key individuals and findings from other jurisdictions. These include consideration of the early intervention practices model, which provides a window at the beginning of schooling when students with special needs may enrol for a period of time to focus on preparing for a successful entry into school. FAMILIES FIRST AGENDA FOR BRITISH COLUMBIA [ 17 ]

20 B.C. has a one student/ one loan approach that supports students by extending lead-time for defaults, shortening the amortization period and matching federal repayment assistance. In 2011, we introduced the new Teachers Act as the basis for a teacher regulation system that will be more accountable and transparent, and increase public confidence and protection of children. A new Teachers Council is establishing standards for the conduct, competence and education of applicants and certificate holders, as well as for approving teachereducation programs. We have also opened up a significant consultation and engagement effort with British Columbians to modernize our education system in ways that put students at the centre of learning. Our education system is a good one one of the best in the world and we are harnessing great ideas from the brightest British Columbians to make our system more adaptable, nimble and modern. Our goal is to improve our education system by ensuring it better reflects a current, research-based understanding of the conditions for effective learning, and for improving student and teacher engagement. Accessing, understanding and linking student achievements to the quality of teaching will be an important part of this work. We invite everyone to join the conversation underway right now (www.bcedplan.ca). Our commitment to K-12 is a reflection of our support for the successful transition of British Columbia students to post-secondary education. Our government is investing more than $1.9 billion to support post-secondary education this year. Thanks to taxpayers investments, students in British Columbia pay just one-third of the actual costs of their education. Tuition in B.C. is the fourthlowest in Canada and increases are capped at two per cent annually. Over the past 10 years, we ve boosted funding to operate our universities by 56 per cent and our colleges and institutes by 25 per cent. Core Adult Basic Education has been maintained as tuition-free by our government. Our government wants to ensure that Aboriginal people have better opportunities to access the post-secondary education and training they need to take advantage of economic opportunities that exist in the province. In collaboration with Aboriginal and post-secondary partners, we have developed an Aboriginal Post-Secondary Education and Training Policy Framework and Action Plan. Our government also offers the Aboriginal Training for Employment Program, providing training and employment opportunities to non-ei-eligible and Aboriginal people that need training for skilled work. Through the Community Adult Literacy Program, we are building literacy capacity in B.C. communities by supporting family, adult and Aboriginal literacy programs. Last year, we provided over $2 million for programming to support almost 8,000 learners in over 50 communities across all regions of the province. Programs are offered by community organizations in partnership with public post-secondary institutions. Our government also maintains a number of programs that are focused on providing supports to students and their families in undertaking post-secondary education. These include disability support programs and increased weekly maximum student loan limits for students with dependent children. [ 18 ] FAMILIES FIRST AGENDA FOR BRITISH COLUMBIA

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