Leaders of the NDP and Green Party said their MLAs would vote against the British Columbia throne speech, even if it sets out an agenda drawn largely from their own platforms.
Read in the legislature by Lieutenant-Governor Judith Guichon, the speech is written in the premier’s office and sets out the government’s agenda.
The BC Liberals won 43 of the legislature’s 87 seats in the May election, giving the party the most seats but not enough to win a vote over the combined 41 NDP and three Green MLAs. BC Liberal leader Christy Clark remains premier until she resigns or loses a vote in the legislature.
“Your government presides in this chamber as the party with the most seats, but not a working majority,” the speech said. “Your government has listened and is presenting an agenda not exclusive to one party, but one that includes ideas from all British Columbians that members from all three parties carry into this place.”
Clark and the Liberals had signalled ahead of the speech that it would include promises for increases to social assistance payments and childcare that went beyond what she’d promised during the election campaign and that would be more in line with her opponents’ platforms.
“This afternoon we’re going to get a glimpse of the NDP throne speech,” NDP leader John Horgan said Thursday morning. “She’s going to read a speech that has no connection whatsoever to the record of the BC Liberals, no connection whatsoever to what the BC Liberals ran on in the last campaign.”
The NDP MLAs would vote against the speech, Horgan said. His party will seek a confidence vote as soon as possible, which could be as early as Monday, he said.
“You can’t erase a 16-year record of increasing costs for people, reducing services for those very same people, continuing to take massive amounts of corporate money, continuing to exist as a government that was detached from the people of this province,” he said.
The BC Liberals have lost touch with the people of B.C. and don’t reflect what voters want, Horgan said. “You can’t change after an election. You have to change before an election.”
Green Party leader Andrew Weaver said all three parties now agree on issues like the importance of childcare and that it’s time to raise social assistance rates. “This is a time we can work together like never before to actually put British Columbians’ interests first and foremost,” he said.
Still, the three Green MLAs would vote against the speech, he said.
“Ultimately it’s a question of trust,” he said. “Do you trust those who spent the last two years essentially developing the policy and platform and campaigning on them? Or do you trust a government that suddenly in the eleventh hour... changes its opinion? That lacks principle.”
Highlights of the speech included:
- A ban on corporate, union and third party donations to political parties;
- A cap on political donations from individuals;
- A ban on donations from outside B.C. to the province’s political parties;
- Holding a third referendum on electoral reform after consulting the public to develop a clear question;
- Moving the fixed election date to the fall;
- Spending an additional $1 billion on childcare and early childhood education over four years;
- Developing a poverty reduction strategy;
- Raising social assistance rates by $100 a month;
- Introducing a basic income support for 18 to 24 year olds who are transitioning out of government foster care;
- Increasing legal aid funding by 25 per cent;
- Creating a minister of state for mental health, addiction and recovery;
- Eliminating Medical Service Plan premiums as soon as possible;
- A review of the funding formula for school districts;
- Convening a Royal Commission in education;
- A commitment to match federal funding for the next phase of the mayors’ transit plan for Metro Vancouver as well as for rapid transit on the Broadway corridor and in Surrey;
- Eliminating the requirement for a referendum on new sources of revenue for transit;
- Referring ride-hailing legislation to an all-party committee for extensive consultation with the public and stakeholders;
- Moving to eliminate tolls on the Port Mann and Golden Ears Bridges;
- Doubling funding for the BC Arts Council;
- Full funding for adult basic education and ESL programs;
- A pledge to work with local governments and the private sector to increase the supply of family and starting housing for middle income earners;
- Starting a rent-to-own home program that will make 50,000 units available over 10 years;
- Doubling the rural economic dividend;
- Buying B.C. wood for the construction of public housing;
- Raising the carbon tax by $5 per tonne each year starting in 2019 to hit the federal requirement of $50 per tonne by 2022.
According to the speech, “It is submitted with humility and openness to change.”
Clark said the speech reflected what the government heard from voters in the election.
“It’s a throne speech for the very unique times we’re finding ourselves in in B.C.,” she said. “The responsibility of a government is to listen to the message people send us when they vote.”
The BC Liberals can offer stability while balancing economic, environmental and social priorities, she said. “The core principles of our party... are front and centre still,” she said, including building a strong economy, low taxes and avoiding deficits.
The government can afford to commit to more spending than Liberals thought would be possible during the election campaign, she said. “The province is in way better shape than we expected it to be.”
Asked about the large number of policies the government had adopted from the NDP and Green Party, Clark said, “All parties have good ideas.”
Read more: BC Politics