In general terms, Bill 6 provides the provincial government the responsibility to administer the home owner grant. In the past, this is a provincial program however it has been administered by municipal governments across the province.
In my second reading speech I note support for this change and express my hope that the province can support the administration of this program.
Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker. Nice to see you in the chair this afternoon. Thank you for the opportunity to speak to Bill 6, the Homeowner Grant Amendment Act, 2021.
I’m just wanting to step in on the second reading debate here to note general support for these changes in easing the administrative burden on our colleagues in local government, noting that this has been a responsibility that they have taken on, on behalf of the province, to administrate the homeowner grant.
I’m just wanting to note that with respect to the provincial government, who is now going to be accepting the challenge of administrating this grant, some of the questions that I will have at the committee stage of this debate will be on the delivery of that grant and the ability of the government to administrate this new responsibility that is going to be coming in-house to the province.
As we’ve witnessed and heard over the last number of weeks and months with the personal benefit, the individual B.C. recovery benefit, as well as the small and medium-sized business recovery grant, the provincial government….
A lot of the language that I’ve heard from my colleagues on the government side of the House here today has been: “Don’t worry. We’re going to deliver this. It’s going to be fine. It’s just a few clicks online. It’s going to be all done, and everything will be fine.”
That’s the same kind of language that we heard prior to the new year, the change of the calendar year, with respect to the several other benefits that the provincial government has put in place. “Don’t worry. It’s easy. We’re going to roll out this money; $300 million will be rolled out.”
In fact, we haven’t seen that to be the case. I have constituents in Saanich North and the Islands that are still waiting for their recovery benefit. I’ve been told, and my staff have been told: “Don’t contact us on behalf of individuals who are waiting for that recovery benefit, because we’re just overwhelmed with requests on this.”
I think what’s important is that the government understands that the support for these changes comes from the Union of B.C. Municipalities. For all of us whose careers in politics started at the local government level, we know about that relationship between the province and local government. We know the challenges. We’ve experienced the challenges.
So on one end, it’s with arms raised and with hands raised that we thank the provincial government for taking on this responsibility. However, I think that it’s important that the administration of this is smooth and that it be much smoother than we’ve witnessed over the last number of months. We heard in question period today and question periods past the challenges that the government has had in administering these programs that we’ve all been told will roll smoothly.
Going a little further, I think that it’s important to recognize that the government has had some advice, I believe, in the MSP Tax Force, the basic income panel, around the homeowner grant and around some changes that could be made to the homeowner grant that would support more residents and support British Columbians, and there are some recommendations that are not appearing in this legislation.
So as we go forward to the committee stage of this bill, I think it will be a good opportunity to canvass with the Minister of Finance whether or not the government is considering those other recommendations, whether or not this is the full suite of changes that are intended for the homeowner grant, or whether we can expect to see some further changes to this important program for many homeowners — in fact, for most homeowners — in British Columbia.
With that, I just wanted to be able to step into this debate and to raise those points, to really, I think, encourage the government to ensure that if, in fact, members of the government are going to stand in the debate and talk about the ease of administration for this program, that that, in fact, be what is delivered should this bill pass — that British Columbians who are applying online are able to do so with ease and that there are not huge delays, like we’ve seen in the administration of other programs for British Columbians who are looking for the support from their government.
With that, I’d like to raise my hands to the Speaker for giving me the opportunity to speak today on this bill. I do see some of the others now have entered this space, so I will take my seat, or I will just roll back a little bit and thank you for the opportunity to speak to Bill 6. HÍSW̱ḴE SIÁM.