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Premier promises B.C.’s mayors $86M to speed up housing, fight fires, provide cancer travel

FILE: B.C. Premier David Eby speaks to media following a tour of the Tselletkwe Lodge in Kamloops, B.C., on Aug. 22, 2023. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito FILE: B.C. Premier David Eby speaks to media following a tour of the Tselletkwe Lodge in Kamloops, B.C., on Aug. 22, 2023. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
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Premier David Eby has made several funding announcements at an annual gathering of B.C.’s mayors and councillors, promising millions in new funding to address the housing crisis and community firefighting as well as travel costs for rural cancer patients.

The biggest boost is in the form of a commitment of $61 million to municipalities to help them streamline and speed up permitting and re-zoning processes in order to build new housing faster.

He began his remarks stressing the importance of co-operation between the province and municipal representatives who raise issues, then went on to speak about the wildfire season and the new task force announced last week. 

Eby referenced the desire of Shuswap residents to help fight fires in their community and announced $4.75 million for “rural firefighting teams” across the province, which will come in the form of equipment, training and support for their participation in local efforts.

He also emphasized his desire to provide treatment and recovery options for people struggling with addiction and said that while he does not believe in criminalizing drug use, he also doesn’t want to see drug use in playgrounds or impacting small businesses.

In his final funding announcement, Eby pledged $20 million to the Canadian Cancer Society and Hope Air to help British Columbians in rural and remote communities travel to cancer treatment centres.

FIRST-TIME CHANCE FOR DELEGATES TO QUESTION PREMIER

The premier traditionally closes the convention with a speech to delegates, but Eby chose to make a shorter address, followed by a fireside chat-style discussion with the UBCM’s outgoing president, then took questions from delegates via an electronic submission system.

Jenn Ford asked Eby about decriminalization and toxic drugs, and whether he felt there are enough resources in place to address them.

“I can tell you unequivocally that one of our biggest challenges around this is not a lack of willingness or even funding,” he said, referencing the billion-dollar fund for mental health and addictions. “Our biggest challenge is the personnel to deliver the programs we want to deliver – the psychiatric nurses, psychiatrists, addictions doctors – these are the biggest challenges to be able to deliver programming."

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