Watching democracy in action is something we should never take for granted.
This past Saturday a group of individuals attended an event that would see one of them elected as a candidate in the next provincial election. On Sunday another pair of individuals learned they would also face off in a democratic process in the near future that will also result in one of them being elected as a candidate.
Over the next months I expect potentially a few more citizens to also come forward and potentially run for public office in our next Provincial General Election. It takes great courage to put your name forward, in fact even more so these days given the anonymous and sometimes nasty commentary that can potentially be circulated online. Regardless of political affiliation I would like to recognize all of those individuals who have put their name forward to serve in public office and encourage others to consider public service.
On a different theme here is some exciting news for B.C. students. British Columbia is soon to become the first province in Canada to provide free online open textbooks to over 40 of the most currently popular post secondary courses.
Parents, students and sometimes even grandparents are well aware that textbook fees can be in the hundreds of dollars or more and the alternatives are sometimes not as up to date or current as the latest offerings. This new program will also allow for the online textbooks to be printed (if desired) at a significantly reduced fee from regular rates.
As the books are offered on an “open” basis, instructors will be able to modify content for instructional purposes if required. While there are certainly other post secondary costs that remain of concern, what is exciting about this new program is that it promotes savings through technology and will hopefully begin to appear in many BC post secondary institutions in the near future.
Last week was the international day for the eradication of poverty. This year there was less coverage in many media sources then in years past. For British Columbia childhood poverty remains a concern as Statistics Canada reports that B.C.’s childhood poverty rate was 10.5 per cent in 2010. While this is the second lowest rate in B.C. since 1980, there remains more work to be done.
There is some good news as overall B.C. child poverty rates have dropped 45 per cent since 2003 and likewise it is also important to look at some of the changes enacted over the past decade that have resulted in this decline.
Currently 18,000 new affordable housing units have been completed all across British Columbia with a further 3,000 units currently under construction. Today there are 29,000 BC families that receive some form of assistance to provide for housing, including the relatively new rental assistance program.
B.C. has also gone from having one of the lowest to one of the highest minimum wage rates and as much as it was suggested that this could potentially have some impacts on the unemployment rate, B.C. in fact leads all Canadian provinces with the creation of over 67,000 new jobs since February of 2011.
Another important change is the B.C. personal income tax rate structure. Today low income earners pay the lowest provincial income taxes in Canada ensuring that more take home pay is available to help support the household. While it is encouraging that our province is moving in the right direction, clearly our province must continue to take action to keep our economy strong in order to provide the resources to help those most in need.