Olympic spirit will launch B.C. reforms: throne speech
References made to property tax deferrals, learning centres, Flathead area resources
The B.C. government says it will use the Olympics momentum to drive changes that include tax breaks for families with children, education reform and efforts to get Ottawa to amend "Byzantine bureaucratic practices."
Lt.-Gov. Steven Point delivered the Liberal government's political agenda in a throne speech Tuesday that marked a three-day opening of the legislature.
"We must choose a new path that meets the tests of today and shapes a future where our grandchildren will live with the knowledge that we did all we could for them," the speech said.
B.C. Premier Gordon Campbell said the government sees using the Olympics this month to embrace economic, environmental and social success over the next 20 years.
"What we're saying here is we will use this Olympic opportunity to really set a course of action for use that encourages a change in our economy, that encourages us to improve the environment," he said.
Carole James, the leader of the New Democratic Party, said the throne speech offered little hope for British Columbians struggling through tough times.
"I did expect that the government would at least acknowledge the challenging economic times people are facing in this province," James said. "I saw a government that didn't have any ideas to deal with things post Olympics."
PM to address legislature
The B.C. legislature will sit until Thursday before adjourning for a three-week Olympic break, returning for the March 2 tabling of the budget, which is expected to include a deficit of $1.7 billion.
On Thursday, Prime Minister Stephen Harper will become the first Canadian prime minister to deliver a speech in the B.C. legislature.
The throne speech promised a Family and Children Property Tax Deferral Option that would allow families with children under 18 years to defer paying property taxes. The plan would be similar to one that already allows seniors and others facing financial hardship to defer their property taxes.
British Columbia also plans to modernize the education system by introducing greater choice and diversity for students. The government said it plans administrative changes that will result in more money being spent on students than bureaucracy.
Neighbourhood learning centres
"New emphasis will be placed on parental involvement and on tailoring our education system to each child's individual needs, interests and passions," Point said.
The province said it will also work with local governments to develop neighbourhood learning centres that could be used seven days a week.
The success of the Canada Line, which connects downtown Vancouver to the airport, has reinforced the government's commitment to public transit, including the construction of the Evergreen Line to extend the rapid transit system into the suburbs east of Vancouver, according to the speech.
BC Ferries transparency
New accountability and transparency were promised at BC Ferries, and BC Rail will be wound down as a Crown corporation, seven years after its assets were sold to Canadian National.
Spurred by the recent Supreme Court of Canada ruling approving the Red Chris mine project in British Columbia, the province said it will lobby Ottawa and other provincial governments to develop a joint national project approval process.
"Byzantine bureaucratic practices have no place in the 21st century."
The government will not permit mining, oil or gas development or coal-bed gas extraction in the Flathead Valley, an area bordering on a world-designated heritage zone in the neighbouring United States. Instead, the government wants a partnership with Montana to sustain environmental values in the Flathead River Basin consistent with current forestry, recreation, guide outfitting and trapping uses.