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UPDATED: BC throne speech promises frozen taxes, balanced budgets

The British Columbia government will balance the budget in each of the four years of its mandate while freezing personal income tax rates, according to today's speech from the throne delivered by Lieutenant-Governor Judith Guichon.

The speech, shorter than many past throne speeches, mentioned the fragile global economy and slow recovery. "Your government is already at work to meet these challenges with a bold plan," it said. "A bold plan for a bold province."

It repeated many of the themes Premier Christy Clark championed before the election and during the campaign, including expanding the natural gas industry, moving towards a debt-free province and controlling government spending.

"Your government will freeze personal tax rates and carbon tax rates for five years," the speech said. At the same time it will deliver balanced budgets in the current fiscal year as well as the next three.

The speech mentioned the promised prosperity fund, the BC Jobs Plan, a 10-year skills-training plan and continued focus on trade with Asia.

The province will double the number of hospice beds in the province by 2020, it said.

"This can be the generation that strengthens the economy to secure tomorrow," it said. "This can be the generation that puts our province on the course towards a debt-free future."

NDP leader Adrian Dix is to comment on the speech later this afternoon.

Finance minister Mike de Jong will deliver an updated budget on June 27.

Updated, 3:55 p.m.: With the premier's office in the background, NDP leader Adrian Dix arrived holding a hardhat to speak with reporters. "Getting the job done on a jobs plan, getting the job done on building infrastructure, getting the job done on skills training, requires more than wearing a hard hat," he said. "It requires actual government policies that will promote those things. That's what we're lacking."

The government keeps talking about reducing debt, but has added $750 million to the province's debt since the election, he said. More people are leaving B.C. for other provinces than are moving here and the province has been losing private sector jobs, he said.

The throne speech shows the government is out of touch with reality, Dix said. "I think what it shows in substance is a government that continues . . . to be disconnected from the public."

The government continues to engage in wishful thinking on the likely impact of expanding the natural gas industry, said Green Party MLA Andrew Weaver. "Everyone in the world's discovered horizontal fracking technology, not just B.C., so there's a glut of natural gas on the market right now," he said.

Andrew MacLeod is The Tyee's Legislative Bureau Chief in Victoria. Find him on Twitter or reach him here.

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