February 14, 2018 – Like the teaser trailer for a long-awaited film, yesterday’s British Columbia Speech from the Throne was at times stirring and light, sometimes somber and powerful, and as a whole, sweeping in its tantalizing vision. Will the actual movie live up to the hype? We’ll find out in a week, when the budget is introduced on February 20.
Seven months after narrowly outmaneuvering the long-governing BC Liberal Party to form a minority government with support from three Green Party MLAs, the BC NDP faces high expectations as it balances the need to keep its Green partners happy while fulfilling the NDP’s own campaign promises to restore public services, build a strong and sustainable economy, and make life more affordable.
With yesterday’s Throne Speech, Premier John Horgan and his colleagues have taken a significant step towards unveiling their action plan. As expected, the Throne Speech focused largely on affordable housing and child care, offering further hints, but few details, on how the government plans to tackle these complex issues. But the 60-minute speech didn’t stop there, instead setting the stage for the coming budget to address a wide range of issues in education, health care, transportation, cannabis regulation, rural economic development and more.
Here are the highlights:
- The largest investment in child care in BC history, but don’t expect it all at once. During the campaign, the NDP promised a universal and affordable child care program, but funding and delivery are expected to be phased in over several years.
- The largest investment in affordable housing in BC history is also on the way to help ease pressure on supply. And while Premier Horgan has emphatically ruled out a full ban on foreign purchases of BC properties, today’s Throne Speech left no doubt that the government would be introducing significant new measures to address the effect of speculation on real estate prices and to crack down on tax fraud and money laundering in BC’s real estate market.
- The government will invest in energy efficient retrofits and renovations of existing social housing stock.
- Greater protection for renters is a key priority, with the speech hinting at changes to allow municipalities to create zoning specifically for rental housing.
- The speech reaffirmed the government’s commitment to do more research on the impact of oil spills, a source of great tension with the Alberta government. Premier Horgan’s government is sticking to their plan of downplaying the conflict and insisting BC is merely doing more research to ensure spills can be handled.
- While there’s still no clear date, the speech referenced the government’s commitment to hold a referendum on electoral reform no later than the fall of 2018. The outcome will have a huge bearing on the stability of their government. Should the public reject electoral reform, many observers suggest the Greens will lose a major reason for supporting the government in future confidence votes.
BC Green Party leader Andrew Weaver and his two colleagues have indicated they plan to vote in favour of the Throne Speech, ensuring the BC NDP government’s stability until the vote on the provincial budget, expected later this month.
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