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February 15, 2016
In This Issue
The Public Affairs Update is your weekly insight, perspective and analysis on politics in British Columbia and Canada.  This newsletter is brought to you by the largest and most broadly-based business organization in the province, the BC Chamber of Commerce – the Voice of Business in B.C.

B.C. Throne Speech 2016: “Success is not for quitters”

The Speech from the Throne has outlined the B.C. government’s broad plans and priorities for 2016 and in the run-up to the next general election in spring 2017.

The speech touched on themes such as government economic and fiscal policy during turbulent economic times, steps to relieve the pressures of a high cost of living, and efforts to say “yes” to economic development initiatives while managing the environment. With an agenda that “Stands up for B.C.”, the speech hints at commitments that will more likely materialize fully in next week’s 2016/17 budget. These include infrastructure spending, steps to mitigate high housing prices, and increased funding for social services, especially child protection.

Throne Speech highlights include:

  • Economic Development: The government says it will “stand up for B.C.” to protect jobs in the province’s key sectors while “getting to yes” on economic development projects. The province re-affirmed its commitment to its Five Conditions on heavy oil pipelines. Priorities for the coming year include work toward securing the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement and  renewal of the softwood lumber agreement with the United States.
  • Housing costs: The government will review home assigning practices (also known as shadow flipping), will bring in incentives to increase the housing supply, and will introduce steps to allow for better opportunities to enter the housing market. The government will also work with municipalities to reduce the hidden costs in home purchases, and to make those hidden costs clear and transparent to home buyers.
  • LNG: The government acknowledged that the global economic downturn is limiting its ability to predict how many jobs or how much revenue the LNG industry could create in B.C. The commitment to a Prosperity Fund was restated as an endowment to future generations, financed through future LNG revenues.
  • Climate change: The government will continue consulting on its climate action strategy before releasing a final Climate Leadership Plan later this year.

Pemier Clark shakes up senior public service
Earlier this week, Premier Christy Clark announced upcoming changes to key senior public service positions. Effective March 25:
  • Kim Henderson, currently deputy minister of finance and secretary to Treasury Board, will become deputy minister to the premier, cabinet secretary and head of the public service, replacing John Dyble, who is retiring.
  • Athana Mentzelopoulos, currently deputy minister of jobs, tourism, and skills training and responsible for labour, will become deputy minister of finance and secretary to Treasury Board.

Affordable housing front and centre in B.C.

After a Globe and Mail report on “shadow flipping” in the B.C. housing market, and word that the Real Estate Council of B.C.’s is investigating the practice, the B.C. government is taking action on affordable housing.

On Friday, Premier Christy Clark announced $355 million for up to 2,000 new affordable housing units across B.C. The funding announcement comes on the heels of Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson’s offering $250 million of city-owned land to the federal government in exchange for $500 million over five years to build social housing on 20 city properties.