LT. Gov. Janet Austin on Monday delivered the speech from the throne outlining government’s commitment to supporting people, businesses and communities, while working to put the pandemic behind British Columbians and build a strong recovery for everyone.
“We have come a long way by looking out for each other and we can finally see the finish line in sight,” said Premier John Horgan. “But in a marathon, the final push is the most difficult. The threat of new variants means we cannot let down our guard, not when we are this close to the end. Our top priority will continue to be on keeping British Columbians safe while we get more people vaccinated and plan for brighter days ahead.”
The throne speech highlighted that more than one million British Columbians have received their first dose of a vaccine, with thousands more being added to the list each day. The largest-ever immunization program in B.C.’s history is ahead of schedule and will be aided by 1,400 former tourism and hospitality workers who are being trained to work in mass-vaccination clinics.
Government will table a budget next week that focuses on helping people now and creating the conditions for a strong economic recovery that reaches every British Columbian. The upcoming budget will make health care better, while creating new opportunities for people, target help to businesses so they can grow and hire, and make record investments in infrastructure to create jobs and strengthen local communities.
“The focus of our government from day one has been to put people first. When the pandemic struck, that focus did not waver,” Horgan said. “We moved quickly to provide relief for renters, middle-class families, hard-hit businesses and the most vulnerable. But we know that while we are all in the same storm, we are not all in the same boat. There is much more to do to ensure people don’t get left behind as we recover.”
The throne speech acknowledged that many people have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic. In the year ahead, government will take concrete actions to make housing and child care more affordable, expand support for mental health care, and tackle inequality and discrimination – building on work underway before the pandemic struck.
As government takes actions to support the recovery, reconciliation with Indigenous peoples and tackling the climate crisis will remain guiding principles. The throne speech recognized the work that began with passing the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act must lead to a future of true partnership and shared decision-making. In the year ahead, government will also continue implementing North America’s most progressive climate action plan, CleanBC – including fostering clean-tech innovation, electrifying industrial activities and making it easier to buy electric cars.
“Too often in the past, economic growth in our province has come at the expense of the environment. That must change,” Horgan said. “Our economic recovery must become an opportunity to accelerate environmental protection, not an excuse to relax our commitment to sustainability. We are committed to building a B.C. where we create good jobs that help us meet the challenges of today and tomorrow and where we always work in partnership with Indigenous peoples, so everyone shares in the prosperity of this land.”
The throne speech highlighted concrete actions government will take over the next year to ensure that B.C. comes back from the pandemic stronger and more resilient:
* improving health care so B.C. is better prepared for future challenges by addressing cracks in long-term care that COVID-19 has exposed, reducing surgery wait times and building more hospitals and urgent primary care centres in every part of British Columbia.
* making life more affordable through changes to ICBC that will cut car insurance rates by 20%, expanding access to $10-a-day child care spaces and investments to help get thousands of “missing middle” rental homes built throughout the province.
* supporting businesses with grants to help them build or expand online stores, and by introducing legislation to support the operations of InBC strategic investment fund, which will help promising B.C. firms scale up and keep jobs here at home.
* building more inclusive communities by developing B.C.’s first anti-racism law, reforming the outdated Police Act, and introducing landmark legislation to remove barriers to accessibility and inclusion experienced by British Columbians with disabilities.
* protecting the environment by reforming forestry legislation to meet the challenges of the 21st century, continuing to take action on recommendations to protect old growth stands, and improving waste management for plastics.
* bridging the digital divide by investing in boosting digital connectivity in rural, remote and Indigenous communities – building on the progress made to bring better internet to thousands of households around the province.