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'These are challenging times,' NDP reveals first Throne Speech

Last Updated Sep 8, 2017 at 7:06 pm PDT

John Horgan (Lasia Kretzel, NEWS 1130 Photo)
Summary

First BC NDP Throne Speech in 16 years

Climate change, minimum wage, and a fixed election date were discussed in speech

VICTORIA (NEWS 1130) – BC’s new NDP government is promising a fixed fall election date, a referendum on electoral reform, a ban on corporate and union political donations, affordable housing more education funding, in a Throne Speech that offered few surprises and stuck close to the party’s election platform.

Lieutenant Governor Judith Guichon read the half-hour long speech from the throne at the Legislature on Friday, outlining the party’s priorities for the fall sitting.

Among one of the first priorities was a reiteration to ban corporate and union political donations and limited individual donations as some point in the near future. However, the NDP held a $500 to $1,000 a plate fundraiser just days before the speech.

The NDP laid out plans to hold a referendum on proportional representation before November 2018.

Instead of having voters go to the polls in the spring, the NDP want to permanently move Election Day to the fall, starting in 2021. “To make sure government’s annual (spring) budget and financial priorities are focused on people, not politics,” the speech reads.

The speech also touched on the ongoing opioid crisis, minimum wage being bumped to $15 an hour and potential fixes for both ICBC and BC Hydro. However, there was no mention of freezing BC Hydro rates, which was one of many campaign promises.

There was also some talk about more money for the education system with more details to come in Monday’s budget, which was welcomed news by the BC Teachers Federation (BCTF).

“The last 15 years have been very difficult for teachers, students, parents, and entire school communities. It’s both a relief and exciting to finally have a government that values public education. I am looking forward to seeing the revised provincial budget on Monday, September 11, and what comes a few months later with the full budget in February. The Thone Speech makes it clear that significant new funding is coming. That will make a real difference this school year,” says BCTF President Glen Hansman.

What was lacking were details of how the party plans to tackle big issues like housing affordability, instead just saying they will create a “comprehensive housing strategy” and “curb speculation in BC’s housing market.”

The party also promised to reduce then eliminate MSP, but no word yet on a date for that.

There was also no mention today about plans for $10 a day child care, but more daycare spaces are apparently on the way.

The government talked about making good on election promises to ban corporate and union donations to political parties, set the terms for an electoral reform referendum, and change the current fixed election date from the spring to the fall every four years starting in 2021.

The speech says the government will look to protect renters from hefty increases and offer discounted annual bus passes to people with disabilities starting next January.

THRONE SPEECH SETS THREE PRIORITIES FOR BC

1. Attempt to make life affordable for British Columbians

  • Make housing more affordable by closing fixed-term loopholes on leases to close the door on unfair rent increases and increasing the stock of affordable housing around the province
  • Establish a fair wages commission with the goal of delivering a $15/hour minimum wage
  • Fixing significant problems at ICBC and BC Hydro, while containing costs for British Columbians

 

2. Improve services for British Columbians

  • Restore proper funding to schools to give students the resources and supports they need to succeed
  • Promote and protect quality public health care, including tackling BC’s overdose crisis and expanding treatment for people living with addictions
  • Get people moving by providing people with disabilities access to the transportation supports they need, including an annual bus pass for those who want one, and working with communities and the federal government on new transit and transportation projects

 

3. Help build a strong, sustainable economy

  • Continuing to sustainably support traditional industries, including forestry, mining, agriculture and aquaculture, as well as natural gas development
  • Moving to make BC a world leader in engineered wood products and value-added resource innovation
  • Delivering a new capital investment plan that will focus on building new schools, hospitals, roads and more, and helping to create well-paying jobs throughout the province

 

BC Liberal ‘betrayal’

Today’s speech came just hours after it was revealed Abbotsford South MLA Darryl Plecas took the job of Speaker and he apparently did so because no one else put their name forward.

It’s been a big question in the NDP/Green agreement, which has them holding 44 seats in the Legislature. Giving one member up to act as Speaker of the House would have put their combined majority in question.

The loss of Plecas means the Liberals only have 41 votes compared to the 44 that the NDP/Greens have.

Remember, a by-election still needs to be held next month to replace the seat in Kelowna that former Premier Christy Clark left empty following her resignation in early August. That, combined with the fact Plecas can abstain from voting on legislation as the Speaker, could trivialize any attempt by the Liberals to overthrow the NDP and Greens in a confidence vote.

BC Budget

The Throne Speech is out just a couple of days before the New Democrats unveil their budget. NEWS 1130 will have a team of reporters in Victoria and Vancouver covering that event on September 11th. We’ll have full updates both on-air and online.