Premier Christy Clark’s new promises dominate government’s agenda in throne speech


A host of new policy promises designed to help Clark hold onto power have been announced in Wednesday’s throne speech.

The speech, delivered by Lt.-Gov. Judith Guichon, was noticeably different from the B.C. Liberals election platform, with changes in education, health care, environment, social assistance and transit, as well as a promise to hold a referendum on electoral reform. 

?The May election delivered a divided result,? Guichon said while reading the speech in the legislature. ?Your government has listened to that result and brings forward this agenda to gain the House?s confidence and, in doing so, the confidence of the people of British Columbia.

?It is submitted with humility and openness to change.?

Guichon read that an “unanticipated surplus? higher than what was budgeted for in February would pay for the new promises.

Lt.-Gov. Judith Guichon delivers the throne speech at the B.C. legislature on June 22. Credit: Hansard Broadcasting

The speech included a pledge to amend the provincial budget to add $1 billion over four years to go toward early childhood development and childcare, as well a commitment to a poverty-reduction plan. The investment is expected to create 60,000 new affordable spaces in four years and includes 4,000 new bursaries and grants for early childhood educators. The poverty reduction strategy will include “basic income support for youth aged 18 to 24 who are transitioning out of care, and will provide free post-secondary tuition for all children in care.”

A new rent-to-own housing program by Clark was also unveiled in the throne’s speech. The program is intended for middle-class renters in the province who do not have a down payment required to buy a condo or townhouse. The program would let people rent one of the thousands of promised new housing units and then have part of their rent automatically set aside by the government to go to a down payment.

Another promise in the speech is to raise welfare rates, with monthly social assistance by $100 to a total of $710, the first increase in a decade. The Liberals also promised in the speech to index disability rates to inflation and banning union and corporate donations to political parties.

The Liberals also promised in the speech to eliminate tolls on the Golden Ears and Port Mann bridges, an NDP campaign promise, and enable a third referendum on electoral reform. The NDP and Greens have promised a referendum on proportional representation by October 2018 if the NDP form a minority government. 

?On the issue of political and democratic reform, your government acknowledges more should have been done sooner, and more needs to be done now,” the speech said.  

In the speech, the Liberals said it would listen and work collaboratively about concerns about the design of the George Massey tunnel replacement bridge and also promised to give Metro Vancouver mayors “the tools and accountability they have asked to fund transit.” The Liberals also said in the speech they will match federal funding for the next phase of the transit plan. 

The requirement of a referendum on new local funding sources for transit has been dropped. 

The speech also promised that the Site C dam would continue, but there would be immediate consultation with First Nations, private sector clean energy producers and communities for additional geothermal power, solar and wind projects.

The Liberals will also continue the planned increase of the carbon tax, keeping with the federal plan, but there is a new promise to reduce the Provincial Sales Tax with any corresponding future increase. 

The other main proposals in the speech:

  • The ban on corporate and union donations will also apply to municipal elections. It will include unspecified maximum individual limits, a restriction on third party influence and a ban on funding from federal political parties.
  • Consider moving the fixed election date from the spring to the fall
  • The plan to allow Uber and other ride-hailing services has been slowed down, with the speech saying, ?Any proposed legislation will be referred to an all-party committee for extensive consultation with the public and stakeholders, in particular regarding boundaries and insurance.?
  • Immediate feasibility studies for light  rail, rapid transit and other expansion in communities in the Lower Mainland, including East from the Evergreen Line toward Maple Ridge and Mission; South Surrey; Langley, Abbotsford and Chilliwack; West to University of B.C.; across to the North Shore; up to Squamish; South Vancouver Island and to Washington State. A ferry between Nanaimo and Vancouver. 
  • Reviewing the per-pupil funding formula for schools to address both declining enrolment and fast-growing districts
  • A “Royal Commission on Education” to look at teaching, the education system and major educational reforms. 
  • The plan to allow Uber and other ride-hailing services has been slowed down, with the speech saying, ?Any proposed legislation will be referred to an all-party committee for extensive consultation with the public and stakeholders, in particular regarding boundaries and insurance.?
  • Fully funded playground upgrades at schools so parents won’t have to fundraise for “something we all recognize as essential for learning”
  • A 25 per cent increase to legal aid funding 
  • Planning for a new hospital in Surrey
  • Establishing wait-time guarantees speeding up access to MRI services, more doctors, residential care beds and tax credits for seniors, as well as accelerated access to hip and knee procedures
  • Keeping with a promise of a 50 per cent cut to the Medical Services Plan Premiums next year and a review that “considers how total elimination of MSP rates can be done as soon as possible
  • Restoring full funding to ESL and adult basic education courses
  • An extra $50 million in additional funding for parks and campgrounds. 

The traditional address is being closely scrutinized as Clark is expected to lose a non-confidence vote, making her minority government short lived. The Liberals won 43 seats in the provincial election, one short of the majority. However, the NDP, who got 41 seats and the Greens, who won three seats, have agreed to vote together to defeat the Liberal government in a non-confidence vote.

Steve Thomson, MLA for Kelowna mission, was named Speaker Wednesday morning of the 87-seat legislature.

B.C. Throne Speech

WATCH: Lt.-Gov. Judith Guichon delivers Premier Christy Clark's throne speech. Read more about the election of the new Speaker Thursday morning here:

Posted by CHEK News: Official Page on Thursday, June 22, 2017

With files from Mary Griffin

Alexa HuffmanAlexa Huffman

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