Carole James, Rob Fleming and Mitzi Dean give Victoria and Esquimalt solid representation in the BC NDP government. They look ahead to some of the key issues in their local ridings for 2018. (Black Press files)

Carole James, Rob Fleming and Mitzi Dean give Victoria and Esquimalt solid representation in the BC NDP government. They look ahead to some of the key issues in their local ridings for 2018. (Black Press files)

Victoria and Esquimalt MLAs look forward to addressing housing, schools in 2018

Two cabinet ministers, busy backbencher represent southwest portion of South Island

Heading into the new year, three Victoria-area MLAs have big plans in the works, including contributing to their government’s first full budget.

Victoria-Beacon Hill’s Carole James, who entered cabinet in July as both Deputy Premier and Minister of Finance, told the News this term offers “an incredible opportunity to focus on people in this province.”

Rob Fleming, the Victoria-Swan Lake MLA who was given the Education Ministry portfolio after years in the opposition critic’s chair, joins James at the cabinet table, while Mitzi Dean, the rookie MLA for Esquimalt-Metchosin, has her own list of duties as a backbencher.

“I expect in 2018 we’ll be ramping up even more to deliver on the mandate of this government around investing in schools,” Fleming said. “It’s been tremendously enjoyable to work with education partners all across the province to make the most significant new investment in the public school system in, literally, generations.”

Part of the $681-million increase to the K-12 school system budget over the next three years will go toward recruitment and retention of teachers, he added.

“There’s work to do on recruiting certain types of teachers that are in high demand. Science, math and French language teachers are in short supply in certain school districts.”

Another update to B.C. schools, the redesigned Grade 10 curriculum, will roll out in September 2018, while the Grade 11 and 12 curriculum changes were recently pushed back a year to 2019. “It’s an extra year in draft form for teachers to get comfortable before we implement the changes,” Fleming said.

Victoria’s low vacancy rate means the MLAs have also their sights set on housing for 2018.

“I’ve spoken to a number of people raising the issue of lack of affordable housing,” James said. “It’s not a quick fix, but it’s a piece that needs to be addressed and [one] that we’ll be focusing on in the February budget.”

All three stress the importance of creating more housing options, including purpose-built rental housing.

“I’ve been talking with local municipalities and with BC Housing about how we can get people to work together more quickly to identify opportunities in relation to parcels of land,” Dean said. “We’re building partnerships so that we can get shovels in the ground as soon as possible.”

The Medical Services Plan premium reduction that goes into effect Jan. 1 will also help improve affordability for British Columbians, Dean added. The 50-per-cent reduction was promised by the BC Liberals in their pre-election budget last spring, and the NDP made good on that promise in their September interim budget. During this year’s election campaign, they also pledged to eliminate MSP payments entirely within four years.

Fleming is also excited about the prospect of new transportation options for Greater Victoria residents. “We’ve already made an announcement for phase one of a shoulder-paved transit lane to the West Shore down Highway 1,” he said. “We really need to improve and offer more transit services to the region. There will be more capital announcements in that regard.”

James pointed to climate change as an issue important to Victorians. “Standing up against Kinder-Morgan continues to be important,” she said.

And Dean wants to do more to commemorate what’s going on in her community.

“There are wonderful resources, leadership opportunities and milestones that are a privilege to be able to stand up in the house and talk about,” she said.

She pointed to Esquimalt’s Canada 150 celebrations and the recent recognition of the 60th anniversary of Lester B. Pearson winning the Nobel Peace Prize. Dean looks forward to recognizing more of these occasions in the new year.

editor@vicnews.com

MLA report

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Trevor Davis, base manager of the Western Canada Marine Response Corporation in Sidney, stands in front of the Hecate Sentinal, an oil skimming vessel based at Sidney’s Van Isle Marina. (Wolf Depner/News Staff)
Oil spill response base taking shape on Saanich Peninsula

Enhanced base with elements in North Saanich and Sidney to be fully operational in fall 2022

The O’Meara family – (left to right) Mari, Max, Adam and Rei – spent Saturday afternoon picking out the perfect tree. (Devon Bidal/News Staff)
Santa’s Forest tree sale in Saanich implements one-way perusing, curbside pick up

Christmas tree, wreath sales in Braefoot Park through Dec. 24

Environment Canada has issued a special weather statement forecasting windy weather Sunday and Monday. (News Bulletin file photo)
More windy weather on the way for Vancouver Island

Environment Canada issues special weather statement for Victoria, east coast of Island, north Island

(Black Press Media file)
Webinars help Greater Victoria residents affected by dementia prepare for the holidays

COVID-19 pandemic, restrictions can add additional challenges for people living with dementia

Mary Cox and Jack Plant dance in their pyjamas and slippers at the morning pyjama dance during the Rhythm Reelers’ 25 Annual Rally in the Valley Square Dance Festival in Chilliwack on June 4, 2011. Sunday, Nov. 29, 2020 is Square Dancing Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of Nov. 29 to Dec. 5

Square Dancing Day, Disability Day and International Ninja Day are all coming up this week

Black Press Media and BraveFace have come together to support children facing life-threatening conditions. Net proceeds from these washable, reusable, three-layer masks go to Make-A-Wish Foundation BC & Yukon.
Put on a BraveFace: Help make children’s wishes come true

Black Press Media, BraveFace host mask fundraiser for Make-A-Wish Foundation

Kevin Bieksa during his days playing with the Vancouver Canucks. (Photo: commons.wikimedia.org)
Bieksa to guest on free Canucks Alumni ‘Hot Stove’ on Zoom app

Former NHL player has become a game analyst on Sportsnet

A small crash in the water south of Courtenay Saturday afternoon. Two men had to be rescued, but reports indicate there were no serious injuries. Photo by Mike Chouinard
Small plane crash in Comox Valley waters Saturday afternoon

Two rescued from plane that had flipped in water; no serious injuries reported

A photo from 2017, of Nuchatlaht First Nation members outside court after filing a land title case in B.C. ( Submitted photo/Nuchatlaht First Nation).
Vancouver Island First Nation calls on B.C. to honour UNDRIP in historic title case

Nuchatlaht First Nation says Crown counsel continues to stall the case using the ‘distasteful’ argument that the Nation ‘abandoned’ their land

West Vancouver Island’s Ehattesaht First Nation continues lock down after 9 active cases were reported today after a visitor tested positive last week. (Ehattesaht First Nation/Facebook)
Ehattesaht First Nation’s COVID-19 nightmare: nine active cases, a storm and a power outage

The Vancouver Island First Nation in a lockdown since the first case was reported last week

114 Canadians were appointed Nov. 27 to the Order of Canada. (Governor General of Canada photo)
Indigenous actor, author, elder, leaders appointed to Order of Canada

Outstanding achievement, community dedication and service recognized

The Ahousaht First Nation confirmed its first case of COVID-19 on Nov. 26, 2020. (Westerly file photo)
Ahousaht First Nation on lockdown over COVID-19

“Emotions are high. The anxiety is high. We want our community to pull through.”

Most Read