By Aman Singh.

VICTORIA- From the beginning, COVID-19 has challenged us in so many ways. It’s been difficult for businesses, people, and communities. And for those who have lost loved ones, it has been a time of tragedy.

But throughout these challenges, B.C. has been resilient. Neighbours have looked out for each other and their community members. Businesses have found creative ways to pivot their operations.

And your government has helped the province to weather this storm by investing in what is most important – people.

At the start of the pandemic, we moved quickly to provide supports for renters, families, hard-hit businesses, and vulnerable people in our communities. Over the last year, we have provided more supports for people and businesses per capita than any other province in Canada.

With our 2021 budget announced this week, we are continuing this work. The budget is about supporting the health and livelihood of people now and creating the conditions for a strong recovery in the future.

In this budget, as part of over $4 billion in new investments in health and mental health care, we’re investing $900 million in new funding for our COVID-19 response – testing, contact tracing, personal protective equipment, and the largest vaccine rollout in BC’s history.

We are also investing $500 million in mental health and substance use care and treatment, including for a stronger network of supports for youth in schools and at Foundry centres, and expanded mental health and addictions supports for Indigenous Peoples. This investment will also include 195 new treatment beds, and $330 million for substance-use treatment and recovery services.

To support families, we are building more childcare spaces all across the province, including doubling the number of spaces that are available at $10/day, and providing 400 new culturally-based child care spaces for Indigenous families. We’re also doubling the wage enhancement for Early Childhood Educators, the workforce behind the workforce. This will help to retain and attract people to this high-demand career.

We’re investing in post-secondary education and skills training, to help thousands of British Columbians find new jobs in sectors like health care. And we are supporting over 5,000 youth with training and work placements, with priority for young women, BIPOC youth and others who have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic.

And we are continuing to support businesses to get through the pandemic, with $800 million in targeted grants and services, including dedicated supports for the sectors hit hardest like tourism and hospitality.

We know that our recovery won’t happen overnight, and there is much work still ahead of us. But our provincial government will continue to put people first, so that as our economy recovers, everyone in B.C. will be able to benefit.

 Aman Singh is the New Democrat MLA for Richmond – Queensborough.