The provincial government’s Throne Speech kicks-off the last session of the legislature before the May 2017 election.
The speech, read by Lieutenant Governor Judith Guichon, lays out the Liberals’ agenda and hints at what’s to come in next week’s provincial budget.
With a $2.25 billion surplus forecasted, the big news out of the Throne Speech is what’s coming back to the people of B.C.
Twice it’s mentioned the government is now in a position to pay back taxpayers in order to ease financial burdens and provide financial relief.
“The government is now in a position to pay you back. To relieve some financial burdens and to invest in your household and in your families,” says Guichon.
Premier Christy Clark has alluded this will come in the form of cutting MSP premiums and tax breaks.
Details, of course, will be in next Tuesday’s budget.
Another main theme is protecting B.C.’s business opportunities.
On the heels of the Prime Minister’s visit to Washington, the provincial government vows to “stand strong on principals of open and fair trade…” mentioning specifically the province’s 60,000 forestry workers.
The Premier today named David Emerson, former CEO of Canfor forest products, as B.C.’s envoy to Washington trying to secure export of our wood products.
The speech talks about the province being proactive with the on-going opioid heath crisis in declaring it an emergency and deregulating naloxone kits and also says the government is ready to do more.
And while taking credit for action on the housing market over the past year with luxury and the foreign buyer’s tax, as well as the new BC Home program for first-time buyers, there is no indication of further steps to regulate the market.
Premier Clark says giving surplus money to taxpayers makes sense because people deserve the ability to choose where their money goes.
But it won’t be in the form of a rebate cheque.
“I think finding ways to give money back to citizens through lower taxes and lower fees… I’ve always thought that is the wise thing for any government to do.”
The provincial opposition is not full of love following the government’s Valentine’s Day Throne Speech.
B.C. NDP leader John Horgan says voters shouldn’t be fooled by the surplus.
“We all know that every day is Valentine’s Day when you’re a donor to the B.C. Liberal Party. Unfortunately, British Columbians today received a chocolate box with an I-owe-you in it. It says, ‘We’re going to pay you back with the money we’ve been taking from you for the past 15 years.’”
Horgan says the money belongs to the people of British Columbia.
“It strikes me that when the Lieutenant Governor said, ‘pay back’ it’s a good thing she didn’t say ‘pay off’ because that’s what it sounds like to me. This is a government that has been taking money away from people, whether it’s their MSP increases, hydro rate increases, [or] ICBC increases.”
Horgan adds the middle class has been under a financial burden due to the rate increases.
He also says that if his party were to win the election in the spring, they would put more funding into public education and day care.