New holiday, televised riot trials promised in B.C.
The B.C. government is promising to put more money into classrooms, televise the trials of Stanley Cup rioters and give B.C. residents a new mid-winter holiday.
The promises are contained in the Throne Speech read by Lieutenant-Governor Steven Point ushering in a new session of the B.C. legislature in Victoria.
The speech says government of Premier Christy Clark will bring in a mid-winter family holiday, but it won't happen until February 18th, 2013, barely two months before the next provincial election.
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"Family Day will be inscribed in calendars across British Columbia, joining three other provinces with holidays in February celebrating families," said Lt.-Gov. Steven Point."Given our economic circumstances, B.C.'s employers will need time to adjust to this new statutory holiday ... Therefore, the first B.C. Family Day will fall on February 18, 2013."
Point said the Stanley Cup riot was a dark stain on the province and the breakdown in civil order requires that justice be done and also seen to be done.
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"The government also respectfully asks and has asked Crown Counsel to advocate for television and radio access to the courts during proceedings for those charged in relation to the Stanley Cup riot," he said.
Television cameras and broadcast recorders are currently not permitted inside courtrooms during trials.
Government pledges to address class composition, court overcrowding
Point said the government plans to address a particularly thorny issue in B.C. classrooms — class composition.
He said the Liberals will provide funding to ease class composition issues, a sticking point at the currently slow-moving teachers' contract talks.
Point said the government is looking for a new labour relations atmosphere in time for the many public sector contracts that expire in 2012.
"The government will facilitate a process for collective agreement improvements by working with ministries and employer groups to find savings through co-operative gains," he said. "The government will be asking public sector employers, unions and employees to join in this process."
Point said the government will introduce a renewed vision for the province's environmental strategies, including considering how tax and energy policies contribute to a green economy.
The Liberals also promised in the throne speech to bring retired judges back to work to reduce overcrowding in the courts.
"Under the Provincial Court Act, retired judges will be reappointed on the recommendation of the Judicial Council of B.C. to provide surge capacity," said Point.
He said the government will also modernize the Freedom of Information Act, create an office for a municipal auditor general and introduce a new Family Law Act.
New tone promised as legislature reopened
The normally antagonistic B.C. legislature got off to one of the friendliest starts in years as house leaders of the B.C. Liberals and Opposition New Democrats spoke with reporters Monday morning.
Liberal House Leader Rich Coleman and NDP House Leader John Horgan pledged to keep the lines of communications open during the next two months.
But the house leaders also said there will be disagreements during this fall's legislative session.
"We're working together to ensure that the legislature runs smoothly," said Horgan. "That's our job. I take it seriously and so does Mr. Coleman."
But Coleman cautioned: "We do take it seriously, but there are times we don't always agree."
Horgan said he and Coleman will try to meet daily to head off possible confrontations, but there are times when the best policy is to let issues between the government and Opposition unfold naturally, and sometimes belligerently.
Coleman agreed, joking that it works well when Horgan "accepts that I'm always right and he's always wrong."
Premier Christy Clark will be dividing her focus this session as she embarks on an ambitious Asian-focused job creation agenda and will lead a trade mission to China and India next month
Clark will also have to tackle the province's policing contract with the RCMP and two federal shipbuilding contracts, which have huge implications for B.C.'s shipbuilding industry.