When Premier John Horgan pulled the legislature down around him causing the snap pandemic election, he claimed it was because British Columbia needed a strong majority government that was ready to govern through COVID-19.
He said the BC NDP were ready to lead. He claimed that his election would not delay economic recovery funds from rolling out to people and businesses.
We are learning that his claims were not quite as solid as his words led people to believe. In reality, government activity went into hibernation, constituency offices were put into caretaker mode as the dissolution of Parliament is essentially a stop work order. Why would the public service continue working on projects that they have no idea will be supported by the incoming government?
As a result not much governing has happened in the months since the election was called. To make matters worse there are many new MLA’s and Cabinet Ministers. While the Legislative Assembly staff are doing an incredible job to on board us, the fact we are in the middle of the much anticipated second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic has made the usual re-start process much slower, and more difficult.
Bill 3 puts forward a handful of amendments to the Financial Statutes Act and the Homeowner Grant Act. Essentially, Premier Horgan’s BC NDP government is amending legislation to allow themselves the space to delay the 2021 budget. Legislation was passed last summer to give government more time to deliver a budget following a Fall election, now they want to extend that time further into the Spring.
Premier Horgan suggested British Columbians would not be adversely impacted by an election. Now we are seeing delay, after delay, after delay. It begs the questions, does Premier John Horgan have a plan? And, is he ready to govern British Columbia?
Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Congratulations on assuming the big seat at the front of the House here. Just to let the member for Vancouver-Quilchena know, I’m not going to be speaking for long, so perhaps he need not go too far away from his computer.
I just wanted to take the opportunity to stand and speak to Bill 3 and to just, I think, share some of my serious concerns that I have for this bill as well as for the content of this bill, or should I say the picture that this bill paints for British Columbians. And that is one of a government that was simply not ready to govern, one that earlier this fall….
As we left this place in the summer, the Premier pulled the House down around him, took this House down, a House that was working in a minority situation, working collaboratively with one another. The very premise of that election was based on this notion that it would be better for the government to go it alone, for the government to do this alone. Also, British Columbians were told that in fact the only way to govern through this pandemic was for a majority government, for a strong majority government…. British Columbians were led to believe that there was a plan in place to govern.
As we’re learning now, as Bill 3 is put in front of us, we find one of the major concerns that I have for this. The government is now asking this House to give itself an extension — 30 days, 60 days — to give it the ability to create the space that it needs, perhaps, to develop the plan that should have been in place. In fact, British Columbians, when they went to the polls back in October, were led to believe that there was a plan, that it was the perfect plan, that only one party could deliver that plan, and the request of British Columbians was to deliver the majority government so that that plan could get rolled out.
Indeed, the former Finance Minister was left here to be caretaker of the business of this place while we were away, out on the hustings, in a middle of a pandemic snap election. Yet we come back here and find that now there’s this grant for an extension — this request for a delay that, apparently, nobody wants to talk about. I think that my colleagues in the official opposition have articulated it clearly enough. I don’t need to emphasize it any further.
The concern that I bring to this debate, the concern that I think British Columbians need to consider for themselves, is that they were led to believe — we were led to believe — that in fact, there was a grand plan, a perfect plan, one that only one party could deliver, yet here we are needing a couple months more to be able to develop that plan.
Under duress, right before the end of the year, right as British Columbians are trying to consider how they’re going to be celebrating alone, we are now going to be extending and delaying the delivery of that plan for British Columbia. I find that to be very troubling. It’s less what’s in this bill, and more about the story that this bill is painting for British Columbians, if you just kind of dig under the surface.
We’re in this place right now, and most of us are in our homes — living rooms, kitchens, home offices — in this unique hybrid session at the beginning of December. While we’re in this place debating a delay — or at least, we’re debating a delay; members of government aren’t really debating this delay — to give the government more space to do the work that it needs to do, British Columbians aren’t being afforded that same experience. For British Columbians, the bills are rolling in. They don’t get to just call up the people who they owe money to and ask for an extra 30 or 60 days, to just say: “Well, we need more time. That plan that we told you we had didn’t really work. We need more time to be able to pay the bills.”
What this comes down to for me is a question about trust, a question about confidence. What message is this sending to British Columbians? After the Premier stood in front of British Columbians over and over again throughout the election campaign and said, “We’ve got this. Give us this responsibility. We accept this burden,” now the very first act is to say: “We’re not quite ready for it. We need you to give us more time; we need you to give us more space.”
This is the very first act, and this is eroding the trust that British Columbians will have in this institution. When we stand up and say we’re ready and prepared to get something done, we should be ready and prepared to get something done. It’s really unfortunate. I have, and my colleague has, serious concerns about the message that this sends about the preparedness of this government, the trust that we can put in this government and the confidence that we can put in this government that they’re able to deliver on what they say they’re going to deliver on.
Big, grand promises were made for the last couple of months. In fact, British Columbians were told there will be no delay to the services and to the program delivery throughout this election. This election that we had last fall wasn’t going to unnecessarily delay anything.
We learned through the election that in fact it did indeed delay the rollout of the $1.5 billion that we were sitting in this House giving the government the ability to spend and that they didn’t spend right up until one week before that election. In fact, they used that $1.5 billion plan, or that $1.5 billion set of expenditures that they had organized throughout the summer, as basically their first campaign platform announcement at a local brewery here in Victoria.
They used the money that British Columbians were contributing to their own recovery and to their own success for the political opportunities as a political campaign stop. It was egregious, and it took all summer to determine how that money was going to be spent.
Then, during the election, because we were in an election, British Columbians couldn’t get answers from their government, businesses couldn’t get access to the funds that they were promised from their government, and there were indeed delays.
Now we’re learning the government is going to vote themselves another delay, further eroding the trust that British Columbians can have in their government. They stand up and say there’s going to be no delay, and yet we are going to be four, six months down the road of delays.
It’s this story, this picture that’s being painted here with this Bill 3, that is really troubling for me, that I have serious concerns about, that our caucus has serious concerns about. I needed to stand and put on the record the very serious concerns that we share about the message that this is sending in the very earliest days of this government about their level of preparedness after making bold promises that they were ready and willing to accept the burden of this job on their own.
Well, British Columbians gave it to them, and now they’re seeing that the very first bill, the very first act that’s put in front of us for debate, is one that says: “Well, actually, we weren’t quite ready. We’re not quite ready to deliver like we promised we were, so now we need an extra number of days for that.”
With that, I’ll take my seat, but I want to express the very serious concerns that I have about the message that this is sending British Columbians. [An Indigenous language was spoken.] Thank you.