The 2018 Speech from the Throne in Victoria outlined a number of priorities and issues that the provincial government will look to address over the coming months.
Read by Lieutenant-Governor Judith Guichon inside the Legislative Assembly, the speech outlined provincial government priorities across portfolios that include affordability, housing, education, health care and climate change.
“This session, B.C. will move in a new direction, with new investments in people and new opportunities for the future,” reads the text from the speech. “Government will take steps to address the challenges facing families today and put people first, regardless of who they are or where they live.”
However, the content of the speech fell a little short on it’s intended mark, said Kootenay East MLA Tom Shypitka.
“Although the speech identified where issues are with British Columbians, it didn’t provide a lot of substance on how they were going to handle it,” he said.
Shypitka singled out two biggest priorities from the NDP during the election campaign — childcare and affordability.
On affordability, the throne speech cited action such as cutting Medical Services Premiums in half, freezing hydro rates, and rejecting ICBC rate increases, while also boasting an upcoming largest investment in childcare in BC history.
Shypitka took aim at the childcare plan, specifically the $10-a-day slogan that has been touted by the NDP in the past, saying it could take up to 10 years to roll out while costing $1.5 billion annually.
“In yesterday’s Throne Speech there was no mention of $10 [a day] daycare,” said Shypitka. “It is interesting to note as of Tuesday Premier Horgan is insisting that he made no promise on $10 daycare and that his words were just ‘branding’ of a term. Most everyone I talk to seem to remember it differently.”
The Kootenay East MLA also question the NDP election promise of creating 114,000 housing units, noting there was no mention of it in the Throne Speech.
“In the Throne speech, all the government could reference was 1,700 modular homes completed last year,” Shypitka said. “The Throne speech also added the caveat that in order for the government to fulfill it’s promises it will need the help of the Federal government as well as municipalities to rezone and in some cases provide land to get this project started, something they choose to leave out of their election promise.”
On housing, the speech noted that housing is the greatest challenge to affordability in BC, with actions to address speculation, building homes people need and security and safety for renters.
Other areas covered in the speech included a poverty reduction strategy, $15 minimum wage by 2022, bringing high-speed internet to rural areas, and creating 2,900 tech-related spaces to colleges and universities.
On education, the speech noted fully funding class sizes and compositions with the addition of 3,500 new teachers, building new schools and tackling gang and gun violence.
Closer to home in the East Kootenays, Shypitka said he was happy to hear the speech make mention of the softwood lumber dispute, which pledged that the government will work for a fair deal with the U.S.
“The Softwood Lumber Dispute is real and affects our community greatly,” Shypitka said. “I am glad there was mention of working hard to resolve this in the best interest of our local mills such as Galloway Lumber who are generational employers and good corporate citizens.”
Shypitka said he was disappointed that there was no mention of wildlife populations or a plan to create a proper funding model for wildlife conservation and land-use planning.
“The omission of our ranching community and the continued funding for fencing and cost recovery for lost livestock due to predation was not in this speech as well,” Shypitka added. “These are such big deals to our region and it is truly disappointing that this government has failed to recognize its importance.”
Other local and regional concerns included no mention of fixing the BC Provincial Park camping reservation system or any specific information on increasing the number of Conservation Officers.
Shypitka, who serves as the opposition critic for the Ministry of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources, also noted that the speech didn’t include any mention of Liquified Natural Gas or what the plan is for the industry in the province.
While some of the action outlined in the speech was vague on details, a clearer picture will emerge when the provincial budget is released next week.