British Columbia

Today kicks off 'very interesting, likely short legislative session'

The wait is about to be over. After the closest election in modern British Columbia politics, the B.C. Legislature is set to return this morning.

MLAs to elect speaker Thursday morning followed by government speech from the throne

British Columbia Premier Christy Clark greets Lieutenant Governor Judith Guichon prior to the delivery of the speech from the throne inside the legislature in Victoria, B.C. Tuesday, Feb. 10, 2015. (Jonathan Hayward/Canadian Press)

The wait is about to be over.

After the closest election in modern British Columbia history, the B.C. Legislature is set to return this morning.

First on the agenda is the election of the speaker, with the B.C. Liberals expected to put forward someone to occupy the chair.

The real fireworks are expected in the afternoon when Lieutenant Governor Judith Guichon reads the government's speech from the throne.

The B.C. Liberals are hoping to keep the confidence of the legislature with 43 MLAs, compared to 41 NDP MLAs who have the support of the three Green Party MLAs.

Major policy changes promised

B.C. Premier Christy Clark has already announced some of the major policy changes that the B.C. Liberals would implement if the throne speech passes. If it doesn't, Clark said they'll still campaign on these pledges in the next election.

"We will present the legislature with a plan that presents all of the best ideas from all of the parties that we heard in this last election," said Clark. "The voters have spoken and they told us what they want us to do.

"People said to us they wanted us to listen better, they want us to be different. So there are some things I think we can take from the election."

Those ideas are plucked from both the B.C. NDP and the B.C. Greens platforms. The Liberals are expected to include an updated financial plan to explain how the new commitments will be paid for while maintaining a balanced budget.

The policies the Liberals did not campaign on include a $1 billion promise made Wednesday to add 60,000 child care spaces on top of the 13,000 spaces the party committed before the election.

The speech from the throne is also expected to include commitments to create a poverty-reduction strategy, increase social assistance, ban union and corporate political donations and waive the requirement for a referendum to approve tax increases to pay for transit.

'Desperate' to hang onto power: NDP

The government has committed to implementing the changes if it keeps the confidence of the house. If Clark is defeated in a confidence motion, then the party will include all the new promises in the next election campaign.

"It's pretty clear that the B.C. Liberals are desperate to hang onto power and they are doing virtually anything to try and convince people that the problems that they created, the mess that is a result of their 16 years in government is something they can fix," said NDP Leader John Horgan.

 "Those best ideas are things that have been promoted by New Democrats over the last decade and have been rejected time and time again by the Liberals." 

Former Liberal MLA David Mitchell and B.C. political historian describes the Liberals' change in policy as "unusual" and "strange."

But Mitchell said the B.C. government's strategy shows it is both trying to plan for the next election and react to what was heard on the campaign trail.  

"It reflects a perspective that says we have reconsidered our policies in light of the election results and although we may not have a chance to govern, we are indicating that this is what we would propose if we did have a chance and it sets the stage for a very interesting, likely short, legislative session," said Mitchell.

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