Throne Speech Reverses Longstanding Policies

Yesterday, the Honourable Judith Guichon opened the first session of the Forty-First Parliament of the Province of British Columbia by delivering the Speech from the Throne. The Throne Speech reverses several policies of the Government by increasing spending in the areas of welfare and childcare while removing a requirement for Metro Vancouver to hold a referendum for new transit revenue sources. The Throne Speech also commits the Government to a series of new measures that address housing affordability, transit and rural support.

Highlights from the Throne Speech of particular interest to local government include the following:

Campaign Finance Reform

  • Ban corporate, union, and third party donations, including donations in kind, to political parties;
  • Impose a maximum donation limit for individuals to political parties, comparable to other Canadian jurisdictions;
  • Ban donations to political parties from outside British Columbia, including foreign donations;
  • Ban funding to a provincial political party from a federal political party;
  • Restrict the role of money influencing elections through third parties;
  • Ban loans to parties by any organization other than a Canadian chartered bank or credit union; and
  • Apply these reforms to local government candidates and political parties.

Electoral Reform

  • Enable a referendum on electoral reform, with extensive public consultation to develop a clear question, and ensure that rural representation in the legislature is protected.

Affordable Housing

  • Work with local governments and the private sector to increase the supply of family and starter housing for middle-income earners, especially along new transit lines and corridors.
  • Work with the private sector to build 50,000 units of new housing across the province over 10 years that will go into a new Rent-to-Own home program available to middle class families.  
  • Work with and support municipalities to remove obstacles and eliminate backlogs to speed up the construction of new housing supply, especially for families.
  • Protect renters as follows:
    • prohibit landlords from skirting rent control protections when term leases expire; and
    • make sure tenants’ rights are protected while respecting a landlord’s ability to make improvements to their buildings.
  • Convene a Housing Summit this fall that will examine real estate speculation as one issue.

Public Transit

  • Match federal funding to build rapid transit along Metro Vancouver’s Broadway Corridor and in Surrey;
  • Match federal funding for the next phase of the mayors’ transit plan; and
  • Repeal the requirement for new transit revenue sources to be affirmed by referendum in Metro Vancouver.
  • Boost capital investment in partnership with other levels of government and the private sector to significantly expand a transit network that will transform the Lower Mainland. Better transit must connect housing and employment, and must lead to more supply and density with purposeful decision-making.
  • Immediately undertake feasibility studies to connect communities by rapid transit, light rail and other means of expanded transit:
    • east from the Evergreen Line toward Maple Ridge and Mission;
    • into South Surrey;
    • into Langley, Abbotsford, and Chilliwack;
    • west to the University of British Columbia;
    • across to the North Shore; and
    • up to Squamish.
  • Pursue light rail on the South Island and a passenger ferry connection between Nanaimo and Vancouver.
  • Deliver fare relief for those in ferry-dependent communities.
  • Any proposed legislation on ride sharing will be referred to an all-party committee for extensive consultation with the public and stakeholders, in particular regarding boundaries and insurance.
  • Eliminate tolls on the Port Mann Bridge.

Taxation of Marijuana

  • Commit to dedicating every dollar from the sale of cannabis to drug education, prevention, enforcement and treatment for those who are addicted to opioids and other drugs.

Addictions & Mental Health

  • Create a Minister of State for Mental Health, Addiction and Recovery 
  • An Expert Panel on Mental Health will review how services are currently deployed and recommend ways to close gaps in service delivery that sometimes make it difficult to access care.
  • Expand the province-wide Foundry program – a single point of entry for young people who are experiencing mental health issues.
  • Ensure all schools across the province have one person trained to identify mental health issues and refer those in need to resources.

Rural Communities

  • Double the Rural Economic Dividend, returning more resource revenue to the rural communities responsible for so much of our province’s wealth.

Economic Development

  • Open eight new mines by 2022, and bolster mining standards with $18 million to improve mine permitting, oversight, compliance, and enforcement.

Childcare

  • Amend the 2017 Budget to make a billion-dollar investment in childcare and early childhood education over the next four years, including:
    • building 60,000 new childcare spaces;
    • covering an additional 150,000 children with either full or partial childcare subsidies;
    • funding up to 4,000 new early childhood educators with $10 million in grants and bursaries;
    • exploring partnerships with school districts to co-locate new childcare spaces at elementary schools.

Social Policy

  • Implement a new province-wide Poverty Reduction Strategy, with a particular focus on children.
  • Amend Budget 2017 to increase social assistance rates by $100 per month, with a process to recommend future annual increases.
  • Introduce a basic income support for youth aged 18 to 24 who are transitioning out of care, and will provide free post-secondary tuition for all children in care.
  • Fully implement the recommendations in the Report on Indigenous Child Welfare from Special Advisor Grand Chief Ed John, including:
    • increasing early intervention and prevention services to keep families together;
    • creating a more equitable funding formula for child welfare; and
    • reunification and permanency planning.
  • Increase legal aid funding by 25 per cent, ensuring British Columbia families can better access and navigate our legal system.

Environment, Climate Action

  • Commit to an ambitious emissions-free target for all new non-commercial vehicles registered in Metro Vancouver by 2035.
  • Invest an additional $50 million over the next five years to fund a significant expansion of vehicle charging infrastructure throughout the province.
  • Raise the carbon tax by $5 per tonne per year starting in 2019, up to a total of $50 per tonne by 2022.
  • Increase funding for additional conservation officers.
  • Review the system of professional reliance.

Education

  • Review the funding formula for school districts. The review will focus on supporting districts with declining enrollment, as well as ensuring fast-growing districts can keep up with growing demand sooner than current system allows.

Accessibility

  • Increase accessibility requirements on new construction and in the design of public spaces;
  • Increase the minimum number of suites within a multi-unit residential building designed with basic accessibility features, ensuring these suites are distributed throughout the building and represent the types and sizes of suites otherwise available in the building.

Other elements in the Throne Speech include measures related to health care, education, seniors, and wildlife management, and is available on the Legislative Assembly website.

A confidence vote on the Throne Speech will be held on Thursday, June 29.

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