Key Highlights from the Government of British Columbia’s Speech from the Throne
Under the leadership of Premier David Eby, the Government of British Columbia has opened the spring session of legislature with a Speech from the Throne. Delivered by British Columbia’s Lieutenant Governor Janet Austin, the Speech gives insights into what policies will be pursued by Eby’s government and how the $6 billion budget surplus will be spent.
Key highlighted initiatives include:
Building a Flourishing Economy and Future
Recognizing the economic hindrances that the pandemic has caused, the Government of British Columbia will take measures to ensure that the province is stable, secure, strong, and more sustainable. In order to achieve this and overcome the forthcoming global economic difficulties that are predicted to impact the province’s exports and international relationships, a proactive plan is being developed that will ensure that the budget surplus will best support economic longevity. To further address the projected economic hinderances from global supply chain challenges, the government is committed to introducing a Goods Movement Strategy and the Future Ready Skills Training Action Plan this Spring. Furthermore, clean economy opportunities in industries such as electrical generation and hydrogen will also be explored as the sectors provide a promising outlook for stimulating the provincial economy.
To provide economic relief to the cost of living and to the province’s workers, the Government will implement corresponding legislation in Budget 2023 and during the Spring. Although still in development, this will include a new Pay Transparency Act, which will be critical in achieving equal pay for equal work and eliminating the gender pay gap.
Recognizing the political importance that housing affordability holds for voters, the Speech confirmed that the Government is dedicated to resolving the housing crisis that it attributes to prior years of government neglect. Upcoming actions that will be backed by the newly created Ministry of Housing and will include a $500 million investment into a Rental Protection Fund, resources to increase housing near public transit hubs, the launch of a refreshed housing strategy, and new laws that will be introduced in the Fall that will turn the strategy into affordable homes.
In order to address the homelessness crisis in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, the province will take a collaborative approach to find solutions and develop a long-term plan that emphasizes secure housing.
Strengthening Public Health Care
Recognizing that the concerns regarding the state of public healthcare are not exclusive to the province, the Government of British Columbia reiterated its dedication to resolving the crisis and improving timely medical accessibility to all. Affirming that medical privatization is not an acceptable solution, the Government will invest in new hospitals and medical schools, pursue onboarding internationally trained medical professionals, and direct historic investments into the expansion of treatment and recovery services. Additionally, the province will expand its mental health and addiction treatment resources for those experiencing homelessness.
Climate Action and Readiness
The Government of British Columbia avowed the importance of climate action and readiness. As an established clean energy leader, the Government will continue to pursue the initiatives outlined in the CleanBC: Roadmap to 2030 strategy with a renewed sense of urgency. Furthermore, new legislation will be introduced this Spring that will strengthen the provincial government’s ability to ensure that polluters pay the costs associated with environmental cleanups at abandoned sites, improve the public’s access to electric vehicle charging stations, protect 30% of land and water by 2030, and engage with Indigenous communities regarding watersheds.
To ensure that the province is prepared for potential climate disasters, the newly established Ministry of Emergency Management and Climate Readiness has been formed. As the key upcoming initiative from this Ministry, a new Emergency and Disaster Management Act will be introduced this Spring.
Infrastructure to Build a Stronger Tomorrow
Providing further insights into the spending direction of Budget 2023, the Government of British Columbia will channel highly focused record infrastructure investments into projects that will improve overall public health, such as building new hospitals, schools, childcare centres, roads, and public transit. Moreover, record investments will also be made into local governments to support the province’s growing population, especially including transportation and infrastructure improvements and developing a Rural Community Strategy.
Reconciliation and Partnerships with Indigenous Peoples
Continuing its efforts to advance reconciliation and partnerships with Indigenous peoples, the Government will make further investments to on and off reserve housing, access to primary healthcare services, the BC First Nations Justice Strategy, and the advancement of environmental and resource development agreements. Furthermore, the Government will prioritize a rights-based partnership approach to decisions respecting land, water, and resource stewardship.
Public and Community Safety
The Speech promised numerous public and community safety initiatives that the provincial government will pursue in the near future. Firstly, the Government will go after criminals who are hiding in the province and implement punitive measures such as seizing their assets and using those proceeds to support strong, safe, and secure communities. Secondly, the province will take dedicated action to counteract the concerning trend of increased violent and repeat offenders. Although a definitive tactic has not been solidified yet, the Government does recognize that a collaborative and multifaceted approach is needed. Finally, the Speech assured that multiple new safety measures will be included in the current legislative session. This will include new Response Teams under the Safer Communities Action Plan, directed RCMP investments, a strengthened bail policy under the British Columbia Prosecution Service, and collaboration with provinces and territories to explore prompt reforms to Criminal Code bail rules.
What to Watch
All things considered, the initiatives assured in this Speech from the Throne are certainly in alignment with the various early leadership promises from Premier David Eby. As the British Columbia Budget 2023 and fiscal plan is set to be delivered on the third Tuesday of February, more information will be revealed into how the financial allocations will support these legislative promises.