B.C. throne speech: NDP sets course for a more affordable province
Party commits to banning corporate and political donations, electoral reform and housing support
For the first time in 16 years, the B.C. NDP set out its goals for the province with a throne speech that closely follows the promises it made during the campaign to reform campaign financing, build true partnerships with Indigenous Peoples and make living in B.C. more affordable.
Many of the promises in the speech from the throne also reflect the signed co-operation between the NDP and the Green Party.
"An agreement rooted in the belief that the legislature works best when we recognize that no single party has all the answers," read Lt.-Gov. Judith Guichon. "This fall, your government will put people at the heart of our politics."
The NDP is pledging to take a more active role in listening to British Columbians and consulting with them on policy, something the speech says was not done enough under the B.C Liberals.
"Many of the problems facing people today have deep roots in the past, problems that have developed over the years," Guichon said in the throne speech.
At the heart of the speech are the moves the NDP will take to make life more affordable in the province.
The government says it will create a legislated poverty reduction plan, something every other province in Canada already has.
Other measures include removing tolls from bridges, which has already been done, but also include a $100 increase to monthly income assistance and disability rates.
In the speech, the NDP explicitly promises to close a loophole landlords have been using to sign renters into fixed-term leases, which often result in large rent increase above what is allowed each year.
The NDP also promises to increase support to the Residential Tenancy Branch "to make sure tenants and landlords are treated fairly" and also will look at options to curb speculation in the housing market.
However, there is no mention in the speech about a $400 renters' rebate, which was promised during the election.
As for $10-a-day daycare, the speech uses much more vague language than the NDP had been using during the election.
"Government will deliver a provincewide universal childcare program that is safe, accessible and affordable," read Guichon.
Meanwhile, the speech does commit to establishing a Fair Wages Commission "to put our province on the path to $15-an-hour minimum wage."
The government will also, starting January, provide an annual bus pass to people with disabilities. The B.C. Liberals cancelled the free bus pass program for people receiving disability assistance.
"Increased support for people with disabilities is long overdue," read Guichon. "It's the right thing to do."
The speech says education is one of the government's highest priorities.
"The September budget will take our first steps toward restoring proper funding for B.C. classrooms," read the speech.
The NDP also promises to:
- Eliminate tuition fees for Adult Basic Education and English Language learning.
- Make college and university tuition free for former children in care.
Campaign financing and electoral reform
While short on details, the speech from the throne does promise to reform B.C. campaign finance laws to eliminate corporate and union donations and put strict limits on individual contributions.
"I think this is critical," said Max Cameron, a UBC political scientist. "If there is one thing the NDP must do, it's get big money out of politics. This was a campaign promise."
The government will also set the terms for a referendum on proportional representation to take place no later than November of next year.
The NDP says it's serious about its commitments to Indigenous Peoples in British Columbia.
It plans to embrace the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and "address all the calls to action issued by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission into residential schools."
The NDP says the time is now to invest in better and more meaningful relationships with First Peoples.
"We must build a true partnership, based on rights, respect and reconciliation," read Guichon. "We can only move forward together."
The speech is vague on details about how the NDP will shepherd the province's economy, other than offering the blanket statement that it will support traditional industries of forestry, mining, agriculture and natural gas development.
It does promise to invest in new schools, hospitals, roads and homes, while also highlighting the Green Party's idea for a Innovation Commission, which encourages new investments in B.C.'s technology sector.
"Government will promote innovation in every region of our province because everyone deserves to benefit from and share in the wealth created by the 21st-century economy."
Meanwhile, the NDP says climate change is the "greatest challenge of our generation," and the party will, "do everything we can to reduce emissions and keep global temperatures below two degrees."
B.C. Liberal MLA Darryl Plecas was elected as the new Speaker of the B.C.Legislature on Friday. He was the only MLA to put his name forward for the position. The move means the NDP did not have to give up a seat for the position, while the Liberals lost one.
.<a href="https://twitter.com/DarrylPlecas">@DarrylPlecas</a> sitting alone in the chambers before the start of the legislative session. <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/BCpoli?src=hash">#BCpoli</a> <a href="https://t.co/1c7P8q4amc">pic.twitter.com/1c7P8q4amc</a>—@richardzussman
On Monday, the NDP will provide more substance to the throne speech by presenting an updated budget. A full budget from the party is not expected until February.
With files from Richard Zussman.