Victoria has been through a lot this past year, and we’ve had our resilience tested at every turn. Over 2,300 British Columbians have lost their lives during the pandemic and many more people faced hospitalization, long COVID, stress and anxiety. As we settle into another holiday season impacted by public health measures, I know our community is tired and grieving.
This year, our government has worked hard to make a positive difference in people’s lives, while also keeping us safe. Dr. Bonnie Henry and the public health team conducted the largest vaccine rollout in B.C. history and the booster campaign is now underway.
I want to thank everyone in Victoria for doing their part – the choices you made to get vaccinated, wear your mask, and keep your distance have helped keep people safe.
As Parliamentary Secretary for Gender Equity, I know that the “shadow pandemic” has seen increases in domestic, intimate partner and sexualized violence. Last spring, we announced an additional $10 million to support sexual assault response. Locally, these resources support the Victoria Sexual Assault Centre, Peers Victoria Resource Centre and the Hulitan Family and Community Services Society.
We continue to tackle the toxic drug crisis, which took over 1,782 lives this year – friends, family and neighbours. Budget 2021 included $500 million towards mental health and addictions services for people. We are opening new recovery beds on the Island, and we applied to the federal government for decriminalization, to reduce the stigma that stops people reaching out for life-saving care.
Housing remains a critical issue in Victoria. The pandemic left many people with nowhere to go, and at this time last year, hundreds were camping in local parks. We acted quickly and opened nearly 400 shelter spaces across the community. We’re also investing in 192 units of permanent supportive housing for people experiencing or at risk of homelessness in Victoria. We’ve also supported renters by freezing rents in 2021, limiting increases to 1.5 per cent in 2022, and adding new measures to prevent renovictions.
This year we saw unprecedented heat waves, floods and wildfires. Climate change will make these more frequent. That’s why our CleanBC Roadmap to 2030 – and the $1.5 billion to make it happen – are so critical: we need to reduce emissions and protect our environment. We must also build local resilience, including deep retrofits of affordable housing, and improving active transportation networks like the E&N.
Our government also invested in local organizations like Victoria Literacy Connection, the Inter-Cultural Association of Greater Victoria to support literacy, inclusion, and accessibility. Recovery funding for events like the Victoria Film Festival, and the return of Rifflandia will give us more to look forward to next year.
During these challenges, British Columbians’ resounding support for one another has given me hope for the future. Hope that things will get better. Hope that we can protect and love one other. Hope that together, we can build a stronger B.C. for everyone.
Grace Lore is the MLA for Victoria-Beacon Hill.