British Columbia’s NDP government touted new funding supplements for children and youth in care, expansion of commuter service into the Fraser Valley and paid leave for people fleeing domestic violence in its throne speech on Tuesday.
The speech, read by Lt.-Gov. Janet Austin, outlined the government’s political accomplishments during its time in power before promising a better future.
“It’s been 2 1/2 years, but the hard work has just begun,” says the speech. “Years of rising costs and no relief left many people behind.”
It says the elimination of Medical Services Plan premiums, reductions in child care fees, the construction of thousands of affordable homes and increases to the minimum wage are helping people.
“Today, when British Columbians check their mail, they are relieved to no longer receive an MSP bill, because government has eliminated this tax,” says the speech. “Starting in October, they can expect a new piece of mail, with a Child Opportunity Benefit for families that need it most. And when they review their bank statement, many families have more money left at the end of the month than they did three years ago.”
The speech says B.C.’s minimum wage will be increased to $15.20 an hour by 2021 and last year’s legislation giving workers fleeing domestic violence 10 days of unpaid leave will be updated to provide up to five days paid leave.
Opposition B.C. Liberal Leader Andrew Wilkinson said there’s nothing new in the throne speech.
“We’ve seen today there’s absolutely nothing in this throne speech,” he said. “It could have been last year’s throne speech because there’s no agenda whatsoever.”
Austin delivered the speech as protesters supporting Indigenous opponents of the Coastal GasLink pipeline project in northern B.C. chanted anti-government slogans outside the legislature.
Premier John Horgan cancelled a scheduled news conference and released a statement on the protests at the legislature and the government’s reconciliation efforts with Indigenous Peoples.
“These events show us why meaningful reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples is our shared responsibility and is critical to our province and our country,” says the statement. “This was a commitment my government made in good faith 2 1/2 years ago, and as premier, I am determined to see it through.”
The speech says B.C.’s population is forecast to increase by one million people over the next decade, requiring improvements to the province’s transportation infrastructure.
“Government’s partnerships with local governments means that work is already underway on a long-term vision for transit and transportation in the Lower Mainland,” it says. “British Columbians can look forward to more options like rapid transit, HOV lanes and commuter rail out to the Fraser Valley, and high-speed connections with our neighbours to the south.”
The speech says in less than three years, the government has started 13 hospital projects, opened 12 urgent and primary care centres, and construction has started or been completed on 23,000 affordable homes.
This report by Dirk Meissner, The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 11, 2020.