HAPPENING NOW: Premier Christy Clark to address media after throne speech in the B.C. legislature.Posted by Victoria News on Thursday, June 22, 2017
Premier Christy Clark’s last-minute embrace of child care, banning corporate and union donations and cancelling bridge tolls has only hardened the resolve of opposition MLAs to defeat the B.C. Liberal government at their earliest opportunity.
“It’s a question of trust,” said B.C. Green Party leader Andrew Weaver, whose three-member caucus has signed an agreement to support an NDP minority government. “Do you trust the B.C. Liberals when they are swinging like a pendulum?”
NDP leader John Horgan described Clark’s policy reversals as an “NDP throne speech,” after Clark added a $1billion child care expansion plan to the government’s agenda.
The throne speech adds a host of new promises to those already announced in recent days, including reducing the provincial sales tax to offset $5-a-tonne carbon tax increases that would begin annually in 2019.
The throne speech confirmed the political donation restriction plan, adding a promise to “ban funding to a provincial political party from a federal political party,” a measure aimed mainly at the NDP. The restrictions would also ban foreign donations and extend to local government elections.
The speech also promises a third referendum on electoral reform, after changes were voted down by the public in 2005 and 2009.
The child care promise includes 60,000 new spaces over four years, 150,000 spaces with full or partial subsidies, and grants and bursaries to train 4,000 new early childhood educators. The latest financial results show a larger surplus than forecast, the speech says.
Other promises in the speech, most of which were promises of the NDP or Green Party:
• a poverty reduction strategy focused on children
• a $100 a month increase in income assistance rates, and introduction of basic income support for youth aged 18 to 24 who are leaving government foster care
• a 30 per cent increase in RCMP drug enforcement officers to deal with opioid trafficking that has led to record overdose deaths
• a minister of state for mental health and expansion of services
• a 50-per-cent cut in Medical Services Plan premiums
• feasibility studies for new transit service to Maple Ridge, South Surrey, Langley, Abbotsford and Squamish, a promise to “pursue” light rail for the South Island, and transit improvements for Nanaimo, Kelowna, Kamloops and Prince George
• elimination of tolls on the Port Mann and Golden Ears bridges and acceleration of the timetable to replace the Pattullo bridge
• doubling the Rural Economic Dividend program
As the house reconvened to elect former forests minister Steve Thomson to serve as speaker for as long as the B.C. Liberal government lasts, Horgan said he is confident the NDP can put up their own speaker and govern effectively.
He said once the B.C. Liberals lose a vote, he takes over as premier and names an NDP cabinet, it would likely be late August or early September before he can complete the transition of government and call the legislature again.
The first likely opportunity for a vote of non-confidence in the throne speech would be Thursday, June 29. Horgan said he will make a motion of non-confidence on Monday, but that would require unanimous support of all 87 MLAs.