B.C. Liberals deliver throne speech: what you need to know
A 10-year plan for transportation investment was the only new initiative in Tuesday's throne speech
The B.C. Liberals kicked off the spring legislative session on Tuesday — marking the first time MLAs have sat in six months — with the speech from the throne.
This year's throne speech, read by B.C. Lt.-Gov. Judith Guichon, proved particularly lean, as the Liberal government highlighted its plans for the coming year.
The speech built upon many of the themes already touted by Premier Christy Clark — including economic growth, jobs creation, skills training, and liquefied natural gas development.
The only new initiative to come out of the speech was the promise of a new 10-year transportation plan.
Here are the top five highlights from this year's speech.
1. 'Getting to yes' on economic growth
The government laid out a five-point plan aimed at "getting to yes" on economic development.
First, it says it will control spending by balancing the budget and creating long-term labour stability though negotiations with unions, including presumably the B.C. Teachers' Federation.
After the speech, Clark commented for the first time on the recent B.C. Supreme Court ruling that ordered the province to pay $2 million in damages for stripping teachers of certain bargaining rights in 2002, and then failing to reinstate them when ordered.
Clark said the government "absolutely did not" try to provoke a teachers' strike, contrary to suggestions made by the judge.
Second, the plan commits to opening new markets and attracting investors by opening up Canada's Pacific Gateway.
"Last year, British Columbia broke a record for lumber exports to China. This happened because of the joint efforts of industry and the provincial government to solidify trade relationships. This model is a blueprint for success we will follow with the mining and agriculture industries," read Guichon.
Third, the government says it will create jobs, following previous commitments under the B.C. Jobs Plan, by leveraging B.C.'s natural resource and technology sectors. It says it will open six new mines, and expand nine others, by next year.
Fourth, the throne speech emphasized the promise of LNG to "create 100,000 new jobs throughout B.C.," to help eliminate the provincial debt, and to "fight climate change" by reducing global reliance on coal. The government said it will release a framework this year for LNG environmental regulations and taxation.
Finally, the speech promised to invest in people by ensuring First Nations communities reap the benefits of natural resource development, and by enhancing skills training so British Columbians are first in line for new jobs.
2. Investing in transportation
As mentioned, the only new initiative to come out of Tuesday's throne speech is a promise to create a 10-year transportation plan "that will identify the areas of greatest need for investment."
The speech did not provide further detail on what this means, but said transportation infrastructure is necessary for economic growth and job creation.
3. Taking action against violence
The speech did not mention any new heath care initiatives. However, the government says it will introduce a long-term strategy to combat violence against women and to provide victims of domestic abuse with adequate support.
It also renewed its commitment to bullying prevention in schools and communities.
4. Modernizing liquor laws
On Tuesday, Clark's government said it will reform liquor policy to create jobs and "to give consumers greater convenience, protect health and safety, and give business new opportunities to grow."
The debate over what to do about B.C.'s antiquated liquor laws has been brewing since last February, when the government announced it would make it easier for small- and medium-sized breweries, distilleries and wineries to market their beverages.
5. Amending cultural wrongs
Finally, the government said 2014 was the year to amend the discriminatory policies of B.C.'s past by formally apologizing to the Chinese and South Asian community.
This year marks the 100 years since the Komagata Maru tragedy, in which 376 people were denied entry to Canada and were forced to remain on a ship in Vancouver Harbour for two months before it was rerouted to India.
"They have no vision," says Adrian Dix
After the speech, outgoing leader of the B.C. New Democrats Adrian Dix criticized the government for being bankrupt of ideas and ignoring issues facing the province.
"They have no plan, they have no vision and they appear to simply want to get through their problem — their political problems without addressing the issues facing the people of the province," said Dix.
But Clark defended her government's plan.
"It's consistent and reflects my unwavering intention to make sure we deliver on the things we were going to do."
With files from CBC's Stephen Smart