British Columbia

Real estate focus of B.C. Liberals' latest throne speech

The B.C government laid out its plans for dealing with Metro Vancouver's housing market in its throne speech on Tuesday — but its outline was short on details.

Speech was read on behalf of government by Lt.-Gov. Judith Guichon on Tuesday afternoon

B.C. Premier Christy Clark downplayed the role of liquefied natural gas development in the province, focusing on real estate instead. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press)

The B.C government laid out its plans for dealing with Metro Vancouver's housing market in its throne speech on Tuesday — but its outline was short on details. 

The speech referenced government's intention to relieve pressure on the hot housing market, which is driving up the cost of living. It said part of the strategy will include a review into home assigning, also known as shadow flipping.

"Your government will look into any allegations of improper behaviour in the housing market, and where appropriate, government will take action," Lt.-Gov. Judith Guichon read on behalf of the government.

The Real Estate Council of B.C. says it's appointing an independent advisory group to investigate allegations of shadow flipping in Vancouver's hot housing market.

Earlier this week, B.C. NDP housing critic David Eby called for an inquiry into Metro Vancouver's real estate market over the technique, under which sales contracts are reassigned, in some instances multiple times, before the sale of a home is closed.

The throne speech also promised the government would be bringing incentives to increase the housing supply and allow for better opportunities to enter the housing market.

But details weren't revealed and will not be made available until the budget on Feb. 16.

The government is also targeting municipal governments: Expect more details soon about how the province will crack down on extra charges added to the cost of buying a home.

"[We will] work with municipalities to reduce the hidden costs in home purchases and to make those hidden costs clear and transparent to home buyers," Guichon read.

Downplaying LNG

The throne speech also again downplayed the role of liquefied natural gas development.

In 2011, the government's jobs plan forecast "one LNG pipeline and terminal in operation in Kitimat by 2015 and three in operation by 2020."

Lt.-Gov. Judith Guichon read the throne speech in the Victoria legislature on behalf of the B.C. Liberal government on Feb. 9, 2016. (CBC)

But with a global economic downturn underway, the province is backing away from making any more promises on how much money or how many jobs the industry will create.

"Low global prices will have an impact on your government's initial timelines," Guichon read. 

"But government has done everything it set out to do to attract investment for the cleanest LNG in the world. As the world's cleanest-burning fossil fuel, demand for LNG will increase and with it, the price."

The government has not backed away from its promise of a prosperity fund. But the speech lacks any specifics of when the province hopes to start contributing to the fund, as well as paying down and eliminating debt. 

The throne speech also reconfirmed government support for the Site C dam project and showed the province is attempting to set itself up as "a clean energy superpower."

The government wants to work with Alberta to reduce reliance on heavy pollutants like coal. Its proposal calls for the replacement of carbon-producing, coal-fired plants with LNG or by "supplying hydroelectricity power to Alberta."

Helping children in need

The B.C. government has also committed to putting more resources into the plagued Ministry of Children and Family Development.

The province will commit funds in the upcoming budget to "hire even more social workers than was recommended" in the Plecas Report. 

Former deputy minister Bob Plecas's report released in December said a four-year plan needs to be implemented immediately at the ministry and should contain a funding commitment to turn the system around.

But the throne speech says the problems at the ministry are about more than money.

"That work must begin with ending the culture of blame that exists for those public servants with the most difficult role," read the speech.

There are also indications in the speech that the province intends on providing more RCMP resources, a negotiated deal with the province's nurses and new legislation around modernizing community care and assisted living.

Follow the throne speech as it happened