The long awaited Throne Speech outlining what could be the final goals of Premier Christy Clark’s government included a number of major policy reversals that had a strong resemblance to NDP and Green platforms.
Lt.-Gov. Judith Guichon delivered the speech in Victoria Thursday afternoon, nearly a month and a half after British Columbians hit the polls.
Normally a mere formality, this time the Throne Speech takes on a rare significance with the NDP-Green alliance preparing to use it as a confidence vote to bring down the BC Liberal government.
WATCH BELOW: The Green Party holds the power
The Liberals, for their part, are using the speech as a sort of platform relaunch vehicle. In addition to today’s Throne Speech, it was announced the MLAs selected Kelowna-Mission Steve Thomson as Speaker of the House.
The party has already telegraphed a number of major policy reversals that were presented in the speech – this is what the party is promising:
- Promising to ban corporate, union, and third party donations, along with a maximum donation limit.
- Ban loans to parties by any organization other than a Canadian chartered bank or credit union.
- Promise to ban foreign donations.
- A third referendum on electoral reform.
Poverty reduction strategy
- To increase social assistance by $100 per month, the same amount as promised in the NDP platform.
- Expansion of the Single Parent Employment program.
- Basic income support for youth 18 to 24-years-old who are aging out of care.
- Free post-secondary tuition for children in care.
- 25 per cent increase in legal aid funding for families in need.
- $1-billion over four years for 60,000 new child care spaces and early childcare education.
- Implementation of recommendations from Grand Chief Ed John’s report on Indigenous child welfare.
- The addition of a Minister of State for Mental Health, Addiction, and Recovery.
- Speeding up MRI services, access to hip and knee surgery, and establish wait time guarantees.
- New centre for mental health and additions in Surrey.
- Tax Credit for families caring for people with disabilities.
- Doubling the Home Renovation Tax Credit for families making changes to care for elderly family members.
- New Royal Commission in Education to look at how B.C. trains teachers, fund schools, keep tests and standards high.
- Review of the funding formula for school districts.
- Funding up to 4,000 new early childhood educators with $10 million in grants and bursaries.
- Elimination of Port Mann tolls – adding this would be done as soon as possible.
- Elimination of Golden Ears tolls, in conjunction with TransLink.
- Accelerating the replacement of the Pattullo Bridge, also in conjunction with TransLink.
- Feasibility studies for expanded transit, possibly light rail/rapid transit.
- Continuing to pursue light rail on South Island and a passenger ferry connection between Nanaimo and Vancouver.
- Restating the repeal of the long-standing requirement for a referendum for new transit funding options.
- An all-party committee to oversee ride-sharing implementation.
- Working with the private sector build 50,000 new rent-to-own housing units over 10-years in B.C. for middle-class families, monthly rent goes into building equity for the home.
- Stopping landlords from avoiding rent protections with long-term leases.
Mines and Agriculture
- Opening eight new mines by 2022.
- Having 91,000 more hectares of agricultural land for food production by 2020.
- Farmland lost to Site-C to be replaced in other areas of B.C.
- Making Metro Vancouver non-commercial vehicles emission-free by 2035 – the previous goal was 2050.
- An additional $50 million over the next five years to fund the expansion of vehicle charging infrastructure throughout the province.
- Raising carbon tax by $5 per tonne, per year, starting in 2019 to meet the Clean Growth and Climate Change target of $50 per tonne by 2022.
- Adding $50-million over the next five years for B.C. parks.
“The May election delivered a divided result. Your government has listened to that result and brings forward this agenda to gain this House’s confidence and, in doing so, the confidence of the people of British Columbia,” said Guichon.
The BC Liberals say that money for those promises will come in the form of an unexpected additional $1-billion dollar surplus, on top of what the government forecast in February.
“British Columbians seek a better balance between economic, social, and environmental priorities. This agenda is a sincere effort to meet that desire,” said Guichon during the speech.
While the Lieutenant Governor delivered the speech Thursday, MLAs are not expected to vote on it until at least June 29.
Too little too late?
BC Greens Party leader Andrew Weaver said his party “cannot have confidence in a government that for 16 years has argued against these policies” in his reaction to the Throne Speech.
Speaking on CKNW’s Steele&Drex, Weaver said just because the Liberals have made several back-flips, u-turns, and last minute additions to its platform doesn’t mean the Greens should support them.
“We’ve made it very clear that we believe that the BC Liberals need to be put in a time-out,” said Weaver.
“They’ve had 16 years and this sudden about-face, which is quite remarkable really; the BC Greens election campaign was basically read out in the throne speech today.”
Weaver said he agrees with the premier that MLAs should work together, but says people should support the party that has pushed for these changes “for some time.”
LISTEN: Andrew Weaver joins Steele&Drex to talk about the Throne Speech
The leader of the BC NDP slammed Premier Christy Clark ahead of the speech.
“This afternoon we’re going to get a glimpse of the NDP Throne Speech,” said NDP Leader John Horgan of the anticipated BC Liberal policy U-turns.
The leaders of the NDP-Green alliance called it too little too late.
“You can’t change after an election. You have to change before an election. I believe the Liberals have lost their way,” said NDP Leader John Horgan.
“It is our intention at the earliest opportunity to seek a confidence vote, dismiss the government, and move on to put in place a government that will work for people.”
Horgan said he hoped the Liberals’ change of stance on policies like child care and social assistance will lead them to support NDP bills.
WATCH: Christy Clark speaks to the media following the BC Liberals’ Throne Speech