The British Columbia government is focusing on getting through the rest of the COVID-19 pandemic while committing to invest in safe workplaces, new schools and lobbying Ottawa for more money for health-care.
Lieutenant Governor Janet Austin read the Speech from the Throne on Tuesday outlining the province’s vision for the next year.
“In the months ahead, your government’s top priority will continue to be keeping people healthy and safe through the rest of the pandemic. It can be easy to forget how far we have come,” Austin read.
“That’s why your government will continue taking the next steps in the largest immunization rollout in our province’s history. As it has from the beginning of the pandemic, B.C. will continue to have public-health experts leading our response.”
The speech sets up three significant announcements expected over the next two weeks.
Next week the province will be unveiling an economic recovery plan and provincial officer Dr. Bonnie Henry is likely going to announce an easing of COVID-19 restrictions.
In two weeks’ time, the province will present a budget charting the financial road map to fulfill the commitments made by the government.
The province is expected to take additional actions to make workplaces in B.C. ‘the safest in the country’. These will include improvements to workers’ compensation and new rules to keep workers safe from the consequences of exposure to asbestos.
Premier John Horgan has also taken a special interest in health-care transfers. As the chair of the Council of the Federation, Horgan will continue to lead an effort to secure a renewed partnership with Ottawa on health-care investments.
“This is an important opportunity to work together with other provinces and our federal partners to protect and strengthen universal public health care from coast-to-coast-to-coast,” Austin read in the speech.
Child care has also been a central focus during the pandemic, with providers feeling left out compared to public schools.
The throne speech outlines plans to move child care under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Education, as promised during the last provincial election.
Daycare centres will then be managed out of regional offices.
“A future where child care is a core service – available to every family that wants it, when they need it, at a price they can afford,” Austin read.
“This new, regional approach will allow your government to better understand local needs as it continues to build more spaces for families.”
There is also a clearer timeline on the next steps at the Royal BC Museum in Victoria.
The province is committing to providing more details on the scope and budget in the next few months. Galleries have already been closed to deal with modernization and reconciliation.
“Once complete, the RBCM’s exhibits will continue to tell the story of our past,” Austin read.
“But it will include everyone in these stories – especially communities that were previously overlooked, ignored, or left out.”
The throne speech also outlines plans in the coming months to tie minimum wage increases to the rate of inflation so B.C. workers do not get left behind and to introduce a cooling-off period on home purchases to protect people when they are buying a home, especially in a volatile market.
Reconciliation is a central theme throughout the speech, focusing on consultation, collaboration and co-management of land and resources envisioned in the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act.
“In the coming months, your government will launch a new ministry, created after more than a year of planning, to support those goals,” Austin said.
Devastation from heat domes, fires and floods, along with the pandemic, has also put a central focus on supply chains and food distribution.
The province’s economic plan will chart a course to improve the movement of goods in and out of our province and grow B.C.’s thriving agriculture and agritech sector.
“No doubt there will be more challenges ahead. But if we look out for each other, we have shown we can overcome anything that gets thrown our way,” Austin said.
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