VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – The province is using the throne speech as a rallying call of sorts, as we deal with the third wave of COVID-19. It marks what the B.C. government refers to as a “turning point” in the fight to end the pandemic.
This speech is used by the province to outline its goals for this session at the legislature and there is no priority higher than the pandemic.
Lieutenant Governor Janet Austin says the threat of new variants means we can’t relax. She notes more than a million people in B.C. have got their first vaccine dose, and that all of us are safer with each jab.
“We have come a long way by looking out for each other and we can finally see the finish line in sight,” Premier John Horgan said in a release. “But in a marathon, the final push is the most difficult. The threat of new variants means we cannot let down our guard, not when we are this close to the end. Our top priority will continue to be on keeping British Columbians safe while we get more people vaccinated and plan for brighter days ahead.”
Read ahead of the budget, the speech largely focused on healthcare, including mental health. The section of the speech that focused on the latter touched on the decriminalization of drug possession.
“B.C. will take action to end the criminalization of simple drug possession that directly leads to stigma and prevents people from seeking services,” Austin said.
The province’s much-touted $10-a-day daycare plan was also once again promised in the speech.
“Your government will help even more families get access to affordable, high quality child care and increase the number of $10-a-day spaces,” Austin said, though we will see in next week’s budget whether any major moves will be made to make this a reality for more families.
The speech also touches on the need for an economic recovery as we emerge from the pandemic.
There is also an acknowledgement of the work still needed on anti-racism, with the government noting we’ve all been in the same storm but not the same boat.
“Hatred and racist actions have been on the rise since COVID-19 began,” Austin said. “Anti-Asian hate crimes have increased by over 700% in Vancouver – in 2020 alone. Racism has no place in our communities. Everyone has a right to feel safe and respected.”
Austin says the government is “committed to the work that must be done to dismantle systemic discrimination that is still a lived reality for too many in our province.”
She also says the COVID-19 crisis has disproportionately hit women and minority groups.
“Women have been more likely to lose a job or feel forced out of the workforce. Young people have missed out on work opportunities and vital social connections. Indigenous peoples, Black people, people of colour, as well as those working in frontline jobs and the gig economy, have all been affected disproportionally,” Austin said.