British Columbia’s New Democrat government says it plans to put this year’s projected budget surplus of almost $6 billion to work as an economic slowdown looms.
The government’s throne speech, read by Lt.-Gov. Janet Austin in the legislature Monday outlines a political agenda for the coming months that includes a plan to support people amid rising costs now and in the long term.
But the speech says a global economic slowdown is forecast and B.C. likely won’t be in a budget surplus situation for long.
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The speech says some people would argue that B.C. should respond to a looming downturn by cutting services and pulling back supports, but that is not the course the government will take at a time when people are still finding their way after the COVID-19 pandemic.
The speech says the government will introduce new legislation this spring covering pay transparency, fighting organized crime and money laundering and outlawing malicious and exploitative non-consensual sharing of intimate images.
Premier David Eby is not at the legislature today for what would be his first throne speech since replacing former premier John Horgan, and is instead in Ottawa with other premiers to meet with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to negotiate increased funding for health care.
A budget surplus of $5.7 billion was forecast late last year, but the speech describes this as a one-time event largely due to higher tax and natural resource revenues.
“Some would say we should respond to a downturn by pulling back, reducing services or by making people pay out of pocket for health care,” says the speech.
“There’s too much at stake right now to pull back on supports for people who are only now finding their footing after the pandemic.”
The speech says the government will announce a refreshed housing strategy that will include investments to increase homes and services near transit station areas across B.C.
“In the fall session, after working with local governments, homebuilders and communities, new laws will be introduced to turn that strategy into new affordable homes,” says the speech.
The speech says the government will continue to put people first in the budget it introduces later this month.
“It will make record new investments to improve public health care and deliver more housing for middle-class families,” says the speech. “It will introduce new measures to address the cost of living, especially for those most vulnerable.”
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