British Columbians can expect possible layoffs, public-sector wage freezes and cuts to social services to help buoy the struggling economy, according to yesterday’s throne speech.
Referring to this as the “worst recession in 27 years,” the Liberals promised to examine the spending of public service providers —like B.C. Ferries, TransLink, health authorities and boards of education — and stood by the plan to implement the controversial Harmonized Sales Tax.
NDP Leader Carole James said she was disappointed by the speech, which she said was “directionless” and full of “recycled broken promises.”
It was read by Lt.-Gov. Steven Point and marked the start of the 39th legislative session.
“The fiscal cupboard is bare and hangs on a wall of deficit spending,” said, Point. “We must minimize spending on non-essential services and target discretionary spending where it is needed most.”
The Grits also defended the planned 12 per cent combined PST and GST, promising it will help offset the province’s ballooning deficit.
“The harmonized sales tax places us on a stronger job creation and investment footing,” said Point. “It (is) critical to our economic future.”
James said what was missing was an apology from the Liberals for not mentioning the HST in their campaign platform in May, which she said was tantamount to lying to the public.
• Legislation will be introduced to restrict the use of cellphones while driving. A survey by the B.C. Medical Association released last month shows that 76 per cent of British Columbians would support banning cellphones behind the wheel.
• Full-time kindergarten for five-year-old children will start to be implemented in schools provincewide in September 2010.
• In an effort to boost B.C.’s forestry sector, a new Wood First policy will be legislated to require all public buildings to use wood as their default building material, inside and out.
• New legislation will deny income assistance to anyone in B.C. who has an outstanding warrant from another province.
• A Species at Risk Task Force will be established to make recommendations by June 2010 of a “new defining vision with a … measurable outcome” to be achieved within 10 years.