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Critical Throne Speech Sticks to NDP Platform and Deal with Greens

Electoral reform, opioid crisis, homelessness, Indigenous reconciliation, education funds and childcare among priorities.

By Andrew MacLeod 8 Sep 2017 | TheTyee.ca

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

The first throne speech from the NDP government stressed the need to make life more affordable, improve services and make the economy work for everyone.

“The problems facing people today are the result of past choices,” the speech said, giving overcrowded classrooms, high housing prices, watilists for health care and the rise of precarious jobs as examples.

The new government will put people first, the speech said. “Your government will build a better B.C. where no one is left behind.”

Setting out the direction for the government, the speech was written in Premier John Horgan’s office and delivered in the legislature by Lt.-Gov. Judith Guichon.

The speech was the first from an NDP government in 16 years. The NDP was sworn in as government in July after combining forces with the Green Party to defeat the BC Liberals in the legislature.

Included were several commitments that were in the agreement the two parties reached in June. “Government will reform B.C.’s campaign finance laws to eliminate corporate and union donations, put strict limits on individual contributions, and make sure that only people living in B.C. can donate to our political parties,” the speech said.

There will be new lobbying restrictions, the fixed election date will move to the fall and a vote will be held on changing the electoral system. “Government will set the terms for a referendum on proportional representation to take place no later than November 2018, and will actively campaign in favour of reform, so that citizens can be assured that every vote counts,” the speech said.

It also promised to strike an innovation commission, an idea from the Green Party, to encourage investments in technology.

582px version of BC-Speech-Throne-17.jpg
The throne speech was read by Lt.-Gov. Judith Guichon in the legislature Friday. Screen grab from Hansard.

Other commitments included:

Premier John Horgan said the throne speech built on many of the themes that the NDP campaigned on and that were agreed on with the Green Party. “It’s an exciting day for me. I’m very excited.”

He acknowledged that Liberal MLA Darryl Plecas’ decision to become speaker earlier in the day has made it easier for the NDP to win votes in the legislature. He welcomed Plecas’ willingness to help the government function. “This is an opportunity for British Columbians to see their legislature working effectively,” he said.

With a vote on proportional representation promised by 2018, people need to see that a minority government can work well, he said. Horgan repeated a commitment to campaign in favour of making a change to the voting system. “We don’t want to disproportionately advantage a ‘yes’ vote, we’re just going to campaign in favour.”

“I heard a lot of fuzzy words today, ambiguity,” said Jas Johal, the Liberal MLA for Richmond-Queensborough and the critic for jobs, trade and technology. For example, where the NDP promised $10-a-day daycare before the election, now they are talking about “universal” childcare, he said.

Nor did the speech include what businesses and investors need to hear, Johal said. “There was very little mention of the economy, the economy that pays for all of this.”

Green Leader Andrew Weaver said there were no surprises in the throne speech and that he agreed with all of it, except for the line about removing tolls on the Port Mann and Golden Ears bridges. “I felt good listening to it. It was a people focused throne speech.”

The speech also said the government would listen to people and bring them together to find solutions, but cautioned that changes would take time. “Many of the problems facing people today have deep roots in the past, problems that have developed over years. It will take time to find the right solutions,” it said.

The speech later added, “The road ahead won’t be easy. It will take time for the better choices this government is making to take hold — transforming people’s lives, revitalizing our communities, and bringing all of us together.”

In the May election, the BC Liberals won 43 seats, the NDP 41 and the Greens 3. With Liberal Darryl Plecas becoming speaker and former Liberal leader Christy Clark resigning, the NDP and Greens now have a 44 to 41 vote margin in the legislature. A by-election to replace Clark has to be called within six months of her August resignation.

An update to the budget is to be delivered on Monday.

Note: This story was updated on Fri. Sept. 8 at 4:15 p.m.  [Tyee]

Read more: BC Politics

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