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Throne Speech Looks Ahead to October Election

NDP promises action on affordability, health care and reconciliation.

Andrew MacLeod 21 Feb 2024The Tyee

Andrew MacLeod is The Tyee's legislative bureau chief in Victoria and the author of All Together Healthy (Douglas & McIntyre, 2018). Find him on X or reach him at .

With eight months until the next B.C. election, the government used Tuesday’s throne speech to send the message that progress on housing, health care and other files could be easily reversed.

Written in Premier David Eby’s office and delivered by Lt.-Gov. Janet Austin, the throne speech normally sets out the government’s priorities and indicates where it is headed.

This year’s 26-page edition argued the government’s case for re-election.

“While governments can’t solve every problem or fix things overnight, your government makes a simple commitment to you,” Austin said. “It will have your back, so you are not facing these new challenges alone. Because leaving people to fend for themselves does not work. It did not work before. And it will not work now.”

A return to that kind of government would negatively affect people’s lives, she said. “It would mean deep cuts that weaken the services we rely on. It would drive up costs with added fees and fares, like the return of health-care premiums or tolls on roads and bridges. And it would leave people at risk to all those who take unfair advantage and put profits ahead of people.”

There were relatively few specific commitments made in the speech and any forward-looking statements tended to be vague.

“In this session, action will be taken to protect renters from bad-faith evictions and to help more first-time homebuyers get on the ownership ladder,” it said.

The government will continue work to attract, train and retain doctors and nurses, it said. “It will make new investments to strengthen home and community, long-term care services for seniors, and it will take new action to build on our 10-year cancer plan.”

It will also tackle “the root causes that are making life so expensive,” it said, including by addressing housing affordability. “It will do more to help small and growing businesses, many of whom are still finding their feet after the pandemic and are facing new challenges today.”

On the environment, Austin said the government will introduce new actions to reduce carbon pollution from big industrial emitters.

The speech pledged “new steps” to recognize and support First Nations-mandated post-secondary institutes and bubble-zone type legislation to protect schools from protests.

“Will we be a province where [people] are left to face tough challenges alone?” asked Austin. “Or will we continue to be a place where people take care of each other and build a better future? Your government is committed to rejecting division and working to bring people together to solve problems.”

BC United Leader Kevin Falcon said the throne speech lacked any focus on the outcomes the government might hope to achieve. It promised “more of everything but actual results on the ground that would indicate to British Columbians that things are getting better,” he said.

John Rustad, the leader of the Conservative Party of BC, said the line that stuck out for him in the speech was about how 30 years of government austerity had led to today’s housing crisis. “Something did happen about 30 years ago, and that is 16 years of NDP and 16 years of BC Liberal governments.”

The two parties are responsible for crises in not just housing, but also health care, crime, addiction issues and forestry, said Rustad. “All of these things come from successive governments and successive policies,” he said. “What I saw in the throne speech today was more of the same.”

Neither of the two BC Green Party MLAs was available following the speech.

In a statement, the party’s caucus quoted leader Sonia Furstenau.

“The throne speech paints a picture that doesn’t match up with the real problems British Columbians are experiencing,” it said. “Health care remains inaccessible for too many, schools are overcrowded and lack resources, homes are too costly, and the gap between the rich and the poor keeps getting wider.”

The throne speech also acknowledged that nearly seven years after the NDP formed government, many people face difficulties, particularly in finding affordable housing, and there is more work to do.

“While B.C.’s economy is strong and growing, your government is nowhere near satisfied,” Austin said. “Too many people are not feeling it yet. Too many are still struggling to get ahead.”

Finance Minister Katrine Conroy is scheduled to deliver the province’s budget Thursday and the legislature is to sit until May 16.

The fixed election date is Oct. 19.  [Tyee]

Read more: BC Politics

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