The second session of the 40th Parliament opened yesterday with the Speech from the Throne delivered by the Lieutenant Governor of B.C., Judith Guichon. The speech maintained many consistent themes and priorities of the government since its re-election last year. The speech focused on: controlling spending and balancing the budget, opening new markets for investment including LNG, investing in skills training and investing in transportation and infrastructure. Few new commitments were introduced in the speech although it indicates that the government will follow through with legislation aimed at modernization of B.C. liquor laws as well as continuing the overall review of government programs (Core Review).
The following priorities were articulated in the Speech:
- A commitment to control spending and balance the budget. The speech suggests that B.C. will adhere to smaller government rather than raising taxes or increasing spending.
- Expansion of the economy through economic development – most notably through the development of the nascent LNG industry and expansion of B.C. exports into new markets.
- A focus on reducing regulation where this may foster more business investment.
- Partnering with B.C.’s existing resource industries: forestry and mining.
- A commitment to work with First Nations communities to ensure they are full participants and beneficiaries of new economic growth.
B.C. Natural Gas
- The development of a BC LNG industry remains the government’s main priority.
- A commitment to securing the 100,000 jobs an LNG industry will produce and the creation of a Prosperity Fund designed to eliminate the provincial debt.
- LNG was touted as good for the environment – the Speech suggests that it will help fight climate change by replacing coal-fired generation in countries such as China.
- A 10-year plan to improve skills training and ensure B.C. workers are able to obtain employment in an LNG industry. Creation of the plan will involve private sector businesses, private sector labour unions, and educational institutions.
Transportation and Infrastructure
- A 10-year transportation and infrastructure plan that prioritizes areas with the greatest needs for upcoming investment.
Modernization of laws and regulations
- Reforming liquor policy and enacting the changes suggested through the 2013 Liquor Review.
- A new Water Sustainability Act.
- Working with US states to develop and improve carbon pricing programs.
- Continuing with a Core Review, to ensure an efficient government, structured for success.
- Improving health care by promoting innovation and finding new ways to invest existing health funding to achieve best outcomes for patients.
- Personalized education plans for each student in the public education system.
- Enhanced public safety, especially in smaller communities. This includes the pending introduction of a long-term strategy to address domestic violence, both through prevention and increasing access to recovery resources.
- Continued support for the provincial ERASE strategy.
Apology to Chinese British Columbians
- Making amends for discriminatory policies of the past, the Speech announced the pending introduction of a motion to formally apologize for the historical wrongs done to the Chinese community in the past.
The full Throne Speech can be read here.