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Speech from the Throne: B.C. to focus on inclusive, innovative post-pandemic recovery

Government's first priority will remain managing the pandemic and ensuring British Columbians' health and safety
B.C. Lieutenant Governor Janet Austin delivered her Throne Speech on Monday

Keeping British Columbians healthy and safe will remain the provincial government's top priority this spring.

The legislature resumed on Monday at a "turning point" in B.C.'s fight against COVID-19. 

"The threat of new variants, means we cannot relax, even as your government accelerates the largest mass immunization program in B.C. history," Lieutenant Governor Janet Austin said in her Throne Speech, delivered Monday. 

"If vaccine supplies are delivered as scheduled, everyone in B.C. will be able to receive one by the end of June," she said.

On top of managing the pandemic, Austin said the provincial government will focus on addressing pre-existing gaps in basic services, such as healthcare and housing, that have been exposed by COVID-19.

It will also eye an economic recovery that is inclusive, and prioritizes the environment. 

"Your government will continue to help businesses recover from the short-term effects of the pandemic, and it will keep building an innovative, sustainable and inclusive economy, with an eye to the post-pandemic world," Austin said.

In its next session, B.C. will continue to improve care for seniors, and work on fixing the "cracks" that exist in the province's care system. This includes building more hospitals and urgent primary care centres, and reducing operation wait times by permanently changing the way surgeries are delivered.

Government will also take action to end the criminalization of simple drug possession "which directly leads to stigma and prevents people from seeking services," Austin said.

Additional steps will be taken to address affordability issues. Upcoming changes at the Insurance Corp. of British Columbia – which take effect May 1 – will generate a 20% cut in auto insurance rates, on top of an existing rate freeze and ongoing rebate rollout. 

New investments in B.C.'s upcoming budget will focus on building "missing middle" rental homes throughout B.C. The number of $10-a-day childcare spaces will also be increased. 

Investments will be made to bring greater digital connectivity to rural communities.
"Your government understood that while COVID-19 has affected everyone, it has not done so evenly. Put another way, we are all in the same storm that we are not in the same boat," Austin said.

B.C. is preparing to introduce what Austin described as "landmark legislation" that will remove barriers to inclusion and accessibility faced by people with disabilities. The province will also introduce race-based data collection to identify gaps in services, and will work with communities to develop B.C.'s first anti-racism law.

The province will also introduce legislation to support the operations of a strategic investment fund that will help B.C. companies scale. 

Reforms will be made to provincial forestry legislation, and new measures proposed to foster innovation and emphasize environmental protection within the sector. 

"We can no longer rely on simple resource extraction to generate wealth, with no regard to long-term consequences," Austin said. "Our economic recovery must become an opportunity to accelerate environmental protection, not an excuse to relax our commitment to sustainability."

The Throne Speech opened the second session of B.C.'s 42nd parliament. 

Next Tuesday, B.C. Minister of Finance Selina Robinson will table the provincial budget. It is the NDP's first budget as a majority government. 

B.C.'s long-term budget plan will focus on protecting public services, and will aim to return to balanced budgets after the pandemic, as the provincial economy recovers.
"As we begin this legislative session, your government urges you not to lose sight of what has made our province so resilient," Austin said. 

"The future for our province is bright. It is one of hope and opportunity. Now let's get to work, ensuring B.C. comes back stronger than ever."