The Legislature has started its spring session with the pomp and ceremony of the Throne Speech. We have seen three such speeches within the last 12 months which is very unusual. A government normally only has a Throne Speech after an election at which time it sets out its course for the coming years. I think the BC Liberals have them so often to cover up their complete lack of imagination, vision or even ideas.
This year’s speech, delivered on behalf of the government by the Lieutenant Governor, was particularly thin. Perhaps most notable, after two years of hearing nothing but the wonders of liquefied natural gas, reference to it was particularly muted. Gone are the much-inflated promises of a prosperity fund, of paying off government debt, of trillions of dollars and thousands of jobs.
After using these promises as the core of the BC Liberal election campaign just two years ago, and then hearing them repeated time and again through the subsequent months, it is a pretty quick about turn. But of course there will never be an apology, a mea culpa. Those plants that were due to start producing this year are still possibly looking at maybe coming to BC. But there is nothing more definite.
So the government has now discovered that BC has a diverse economy and we need to strengthen that. A decent message if it were to be backed with any action. Unfortunately the speech sounded like a jumble of slogans and spin. For instance it talked about the amazing level of exports from our forests, without acknowledging those exports are largely raw logs.
And there were yawning gaps in the speech: not a word about healthcare, childcare or the social services. Nothing about ferries or transit. Nothing about how the government planned to help the tens of thousands of middle class people who are really struggling because of increased costs in hydro, MSP, fees and fares. The main reference to education was that the government intends to open schools overseas to capitalise on foreign students. Surely we should be worrying about what is happening here where parents are fundraising for textbooks while public funds still go into elite private schools.
In my response to the speech I talked about the missed opportunity. Now is a time for a government to be brave and visionary, a government that can both inspire and help people.
It is not that hard, after 14 years of the BC Liberals, to see where improvements can be made in ways that would engage individuals and communities. I suggested ideas which were notably absent from the government’s limited agenda for the coming months: from investing in a green economy to regenerating BC Hydro so it is working on geothermal, wind and solar power rather than the $8.8 billion Site C; from treating broadband internet as a utility so it could get to every home and business at a reasonable cost to the perennial issue of BC Ferries being brought back under government control and fares made affordable.
While the budget is not until next week, I suggested that to pay for it the government engage in a serious overhaul of the tax system so that we have true progressive taxation (including tackling the nightmare of MSP by including it in the tax system as other provinces do); ensuring corporations paid their fair share; and charging realistic stumpage and reviewing the royalties systems for our natural resources.
During this session we will be introducing a range of bills on issues as diverse as employment to heritage. The first of these, on democratic reform, was tabled on Thursday. This was part of a series of 12 bills committed to making our democracy more accountable and open. And we will be underlining our commitment to proportional representation for elections.
The throne speech does not indicate a heavy legislative agenda on behalf of the government, but a number of bills were introduced including changes to Workmen’s Compensation Act in the wake of the mill explosions in the interior. The government also brought in a bill which would streamline the three organisations representing accountants into a single professional body, the Chartered Professional Accountants Act.
These bills will be debated over the coming weeks along with continued discussion of the throne speech. Next week however we will see the budget debated.
I will be back in the constituency this weekend, but can always be reached by email at Claire.firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone in Campbell River on 250 287 5100, in Port Hardy on 250 949 9473. You can also friend me on Facebook, follow me on Twitter @clairetrevena.ca or check out my web page www.clairetrevena.ca.