The circus is coming back to town!
I’m referring, of course, to the fact the B.C. legislature will resume sitting today and with it will come the usual endless supply of rhetoric, exaggeration and hot air emanating from our provincial politicians.
Of course, it’s not all about question period and the antics that occur during it. There will also be some legislation that may prove newsworthy on several fronts.
It all kicks off with the Throne Speech today. Lieutenant-Governor Judith Guichon will read a speech prepared by the premier’s office that outlines, in very vague and at times oblique language, the government’s legislation priorities for the three-month session.
Throne Speeches are notoriously short on detail and long on flowery phrases that read like a code that needs to be broken. I suspect this year’s speech will be no different.
But Government House Leader Mike de Jong provided several hints to press gallery reporters Thursday on what kind of legislation will be coming down the pipe, and he likely provided more details (however fuzzy they were) than anything in the speech itself.
For example, de Jong suggested there will be more changes to MSP premiums over and above what we’ve already reported (that single parents will get a break). As well, rules regarding the storage and release of public information will be expanded.
WATCH: Baldrey on changes to MSP changes
He also spent a fair amount of time talking about looming measures to deal with a red-hot housing market that has become entrenched in various parts of the province, notably Metro Vancouver (but also the Okanagan and Southern Vancouver Island).
The finance minister says steps will be taken to improve the chance of people entering the housing market, and to also encourage the expansion in the construction of more housing. There is also going to be some kind of action aimed at curbing city and municipal barriers to housing construction (a reference to various fees and surtaxes).
When it comes to the environment, de Jong says there will be legislation dealing with climate change targets. Presumably he was referring to curbing greenhouse gas emissions, and considering there seems to be consensus that B.C. will not reach its legislated GHG emission targets, perhaps those targets will be changed.
There will be legislation implementing the agreement to establish what can happen in the Great Bear Rainforest, of course, and de Jong also mentioned more money to reduce case loads in the health care system.
But, legislation aside, this upcoming session is really a rehearsal for both the B.C. Liberals and the NDP to rehearse their lines, map out their strategy and figure out their “messaging” in the run-up to the next provincial election.
The vote is just 15 months away and there are already signs those months will be a bruising, bloody slagging match between the two main political parties. Soon to be gone are any signs of civility or of that kind of positive approach disastrously employed by former NDP leader Adrian Dix.
The NDP has already unveiled its first attack ad (it ran online) and it was aimed squarely at Premier Christy Clark. Expect the New Democrats to continue to attack Clark in fairly personal terms, to mock her capabilities and to attempt to lay all kinds of negativity at her feet.
The B.C. Liberals, for their part, have already dubbed NDP leader John Horgan “Dr. No” for his party’s inability to articulate an economic platform that supports significant natural resource development.
Make no mistake: this is going to be a loud and, at times, dirty fight between the two sides and it all begins with next Tuesday’s Throne Speech.
While our MLAs will be polite and well-behaved as the Lieutenant-Governor reads the text, as soon as she leaves the legislature buildings the gloves will come off and stay off until May 17, 2017.