British Columbians need clarity from the BC NDP government whether the Throne Speech that opened the 42nd Parliament is the plan for 2021, or if there is another Throne Speech planned for the Spring.
As it stands right now it’s unclear what the plan is, and it’s not really certain that there is a plan. We know we are here in the legislature to deliver on the BC NDP’s campaign promise to give families in British Columbia $1000, and individuals $500. We know that the program they are delivering now is not what they promised during the election. We’ve also learned that the BC NDP needs a few more weeks to organize the 2021 budget and we spent a majority of our time here debating that Bill.
Initially, I wasn’t going to provide a Response to the Speech from the Throne in this December session. I was going to wait it out and see what happened in the Spring. However, with the lack of clarity on whether this was going to be the Speech that outlines the plan for the coming year, I felt it necessary to state my concern that this Throne Speech was not a forward looking vision but rather an account of what has already been accomplished.
Thank you for this opportunity to respond to the second Speech from the Throne this year. As my colleagues have done on both sides of the House, I’d like to take this opportunity to acknowledge the incredible people in Saanich North and the Islands for putting their trust in me for the next four years, their confidence in me for the next four years, and the incredible people that were a part of my campaign team, who came together very quickly. We had always prepared for the potential for a snap election, and this fall we learned why we were prepared for a snap election. So we had the opportunity to exercise what we had prepared for, and I’m glad to be able to have a space here and to represent the beautiful territory of the W̱SÁNEĆ.
I do speak to the throne speech. I was actually going to not speak to the throne speech this time around, because I kind of half thought, as I looked through it, that there is potentially another throne speech coming. I mean, at least I would hope that this is not the vision that is being laid out for British Columbia for 2021 and going forward from a devastating pandemic. However, as committees had been stood up, as work had been proceeding, I kind of felt that this might actually be the only throne speech that I’m going to get a chance to respond to. So earlier today I changed my mind and thought that I would find myself here speaking to this throne speech, because I was and remain — continue to be — quite confused with what’s going on.
This may be the throne speech for 2021. We don’t have a parliamentary calendar. We’re debating another piece of legislation that may or may not extend the ability of government to deliver a budget past February. We might be here in February. We might not be. We could be here in March or April. Potentially, we could have a budget in May. I mean, the reality of it is that there’s not a lot of certainty. The only thing that is certain is that I’m here today, and I thought I’d take the opportunity to speak to the throne speech.
In taking a look at the throne speech…. It’s only a few pages. I’ve been now a part of a few throne speeches, and each one of them lays out a substantial vision for the government. This is how the government articulates its vision for British Columbians. The thing I noticed about this second throne speech of this year was that it wasn’t a forward-looking document. It was a document that was firmly looking in the rearview mirror. “This is what we have accomplished.”
We’re in multiple crises. We’ve got a pandemic — global proportions. We’ve got an overdose and addiction crisis in our province. We had a crisis in seniors care. We’ve got small businesses collapsing. We have an economic, social and — as we’ve been raising in this Legislature for the past 3½ years — we’ve got crisis in the environment as well. We’ve got collapsing ecosystems that have been clearly harvested right to the end. We’ve got a full-throttle crisis that we’re facing, and what we have is a throne speech that doesn’t lay out how we’re going to navigate our way through that, necessarily. What it does is it says: “This is how well we did when everybody was giving government space to do what needed to be done in the face of a pandemic.”
Here we are after the fall election, scrambling into a December session. We are here, I think — at least British Columbians think we’re here — to deliver on a promise that the Premier made during an election campaign. What we’re finding out is that it’s dramatically different than the one people thought they were getting. We’re here to do that bit of work. It was not well thought through. It was or was not contemplated in the summer. Nobody really knows. Now we’re debating Bill 3, which is a bill to delay the budget to give the government more space.
We have no parliamentary calendar for 2021. Again, I ask the question: when will we be back in here to debate important pieces of legislation? As I said in the debate for Bill 3, the real challenge that I have with the situation that we face today is that we were told there was a plan. We were told there was an agenda and that British Columbians were to buy into that agenda. The reality is that if this is the throne speech that delivers part 1 of that, then 2021 is a pretty bleak year for British Columbians. It will be more of the government reflecting back on what they did well when we were at the table with them, when our friends in the B.C. Liberals were stepping back and allowing the space for the Premier and the former Finance Minister to do the work.
In this throne speech, there are commitments to invest in people, strengthen economies, support jobs and growth, a clean energy future, a just recovery and reconciliation with Indigenous people. That’s what we were already doing. We were already doing it to incredible success — all of those things. That’s not new. That’s not an incredible vision forward. That’s not the foundation to call a snap election in the middle of a pandemic. We’ve been doing that for 3½ years.
In the throne speech, it lays out what the commitment is for health, for COVID-19, talking about government’s rapid response. We did that collectively. We collectively rapidly responded. We shut this place down. We returned. Ten of us — I was sitting in that seat over there — got to work to deliver a $5 billion envelope of funding for the government to work.
We stepped back. We stepped the politics back. We gave the space, and the government went to work consulting all summer long on their election platform. That’s what we learned, because the reality of it is that that economic recovery plan, the great economic recovery plan, was the first announcement of their campaign, the government’s campaign, despite the knowledge that there was a second wave coming, despite the knowledge that there were increasing numbers in Fraser Health. These markers were in place long before the election was called. Here we are anyway.
So this throne speech doesn’t cut it in terms of a vision. It does a pretty good job of summarizing the success. But really, if you were going to do that, there were a lot of things that you would have had in that document. If you were really going to give and pay homage to the incredible work of a minority government, the first of its kind in B.C.’s history, getting together with different ideas, trying to cut through differences of opinion to find common ground on issues, to collaborate, to cooperate, then this throne speech would have had a lot more to it.
This is why I’m wondering if there’s not another throne speech coming. When I took a look at this, I had to stand up to say that this is not good enough. If this is what it is, it’s not good enough. If we’re going to be doing another throne speech, then I have to wonder why it is that we’re going through this charade, why it is that we’re going through this process to scramble back here to stand up committees that are then just going to be dissolved again in a couple of months, only to be stood back up again.
What it says to me is that there wasn’t a plan. There wasn’t an organized and coordinated effort. This was simply an opportunity to try to have all of the responsibility. Now you have it, and now you’ve got to take and be accountable for that responsibility.
We were told that there was going to be no delay. We were told that we were going to roll straight from that election right into governing. That’s what the Premier promised. Tell that to the people in my constituency who have been waiting for me to ramp back up my operations, as we were in caretaker mode for the better part of two months. Tell that to the backlog of meetings that I have. Tell that to the people who haven’t been able to get access to the programs that they needed to get access to while we were out on the hustings. No delay.
Tell that to the people who have been waiting, the businesses that have been waiting for ministries to respond to them for funding applications, for grant money, for economic recovery money. Tell them that there is not going to be any delay to their operations.
As ministry staff quite rightly say: “Well, we have no idea who is going to be government. We don’t know which programs are going to be in place, so we, as well, remain in caretaker mode.”
New ministers — and I’ve had the benefit of talking to a couple of new ministers — quite rightly have the work ahead of them to get up to speed on their files. New deputy ministers come in to get up to speed on their files. It’s not realistic that there is going to be no delay. So why was it told to British Columbians that there won’t be a delay?
The reality is we don’t have a budget. We don’t have certainty. We don’t have confidence. We don’t have a throne speech that lays out a vision for 2021. I sure hope there is another throne speech at some point early in 2021 that lays out this grand plan and the big promises and how we’re going to achieve that. I suspect there is one coming. I hope there is one coming, because as it stands right now, the document that we have in front of us to analyze is not good enough.
It fails to meet the expectations that British Columbians were told to have in a new majority NDP government. This document doesn’t do that. This document barely gets this Legislature open.
With that, I’m going to take my seat. I felt like it was important for me…. Just in case there wasn’t a throne speech and we were in fact going to be building off of this throne speech for the rest of the year, I needed to be on the record to say that this simply was not good enough.