What some are saying about Friday’s throne speech by the new NDP government:
BC Federation of Labour:
“We are encouraged by these first steps to address some critical challenges facing British Columbians,” said BC Federation of Labour President Irene Lanzinger.
“Lifting welfare rates, eliminating fees for ABE and ESL, free tuition for kids in care attending a post-secondary institution, and creating a poverty reduction strategy – these are actions that are long overdue.”
The Throne Speech also referenced the establishment of a Fair Wages Commission
The BC NDP had campaigned on a 2021 deadline to reach a $15/hour minimum wage, but recently announced that the deadline has been removed and the Fair Wages Commission will determine the implementation timeline.
“We have long advocated for a $15/hour minimum wage in BC. Our lowest-paid workers are living below the poverty line, and it is our position that we need to reach $15/hour as quickly as possible,” said Lanzinger. “We will take the opportunity to aggressively push for a faster implementation.”
“British Columbians should not have to wait, especially when we have the highest cost of living in the country.”
BCGEU President Stephanie Smith is pleased with throne speech commitments to improve services for seniors' care, child care, poverty reduction and making life more affordable for working families and renters.
"B.C. is one of the richest provinces, with some of the highest rates of poverty and child poverty in Canada," Smith says. "The government's commitment to initiate a poverty reduction plan and take the first steps toward affordable child care is a refreshing and much needed change from the past."
Improving the government's relationship with First Nations and reforming the province's out-dated electoral system are key commitments to establish progressive democratic reform.
“CUPE members are happy to hear plans to deliver on commitments made in the last election,” said Paul Faoro, President of CUPE BC.
BC Lieutenant Governor Judith Guichon outlined BC NDP Premier John Horgan’s government priorities - from enhancing public education, to protecting the most vulnerable, to improving availability of childcare, to creating good paying jobs in a strong, balanced and environmentally sustainable economy.
“CUPE members are hearing a very different tone than what we listened to for the last 16 years,” said Faoro.
The government’s focus on public schools is encouraging for the more than 27,000 CUPE education workers.
Today’s Throne Speech also presented initiatives long called for by CUPE members and community allies, including building affordable housing, implementing a poverty reduction strategy, and acting to end BC’s drug overdose death crisis.
BC Teachers’ Federation:
“After 15 years of unconstitutional legislation, cuts to services for students, and school closures, the new BC government delivered a Throne Speech that is a big step in the right direction,” said BCTF President Glen Hansman.
“I am looking forward to seeing the revised provincial budget on Monday, September 11, and what comes a few months later with the full budget in February. The Throne Speech makes it clear that significant new funding is coming. That will make a real difference this school year.”
“One key challenge that has to be a priority is resolving the teacher shortage across BC, especially for teachers teaching on call and specialists. This is a big challenge, but entirely solvable in both urban and rural areas. The BCTF is committed to working with the government and school districts to develop a robust recruitment and retention strategy.”
“After years of advocating for transparency and accountability in decision-making, British Columbians are finally seeing a solid commitment to getting Big Money out of politics,” says Dogwood’s democracy campaigner, Lisa Sammartino. “But, the reality is, after years of being a donation free-for-all, we really don’t know what the legacy of Big Money is in our province.”
“If projects were approved, contracts were awarded or laws were created for the benefit of party donors, and not because they were in the best interests of British Columbians, those decisions need to be sent back to the drawing board. And the only way we can determine that is through a Corruption Inquiry,” explains Sammartino.
The throne speech sets out three priorities for B.C.:
1. Make life more affordable for British Columbians. With action already taken on removing bridge tolls, helping reduce poverty by increasing income assistance and disability rates, and making university and college tuition free for former children in care, the government will move this fall to:
* Make housing more affordable by closing fixed-term loopholes on leases to close the door on unfair rent increases and increasing the stock of affordable housing around the province.
* Establish a fair wages commission with the goal of delivering a $15-an-hour minimum wage.
* Fixing significant problems at ICBC and BC Hydro, while containing costs for British Columbians.
2. Improve services for British Columbians, with action being taken in the coming months to:
* Restore proper funding to schools to give students the resources and supports they need to succeed.
* Promote and protect quality public health care, including tackling B.C.'s overdose crisis and expanding treatment for people living with addictions.
* Get people moving by providing people with disabilities access to the transportation supports they need, including an annual bus pass for those who want one, and working with communities and the federal government on new transit and transportation projects.
3. Help build a strong, sustainable economy, where all British Columbians share in the benefits of the province's resources, innovation and talent by:
* Continuing to sustainably support traditional industries, including forestry, mining, agriculture and aquaculture, as well as natural gas development.
* Moving to make B.C. a world leader in engineered wood products and value-added resource innovation.
* Delivering a new capital investment plan that will focus on building new schools, hospitals, roads and more, and helping to create well-paying jobs throughout the province.