B.C. Lt. Gov. Janet Austin presents the NDP government’s speech from the throne at the B.C. legislature, Feb. 12, 2019. (Hansard TV)

B.C. Lt. Gov. Janet Austin presents the NDP government’s speech from the throne at the B.C. legislature, Feb. 12, 2019. (Hansard TV)

Kootenay East MLA says throne speech ‘an opportunity missed’

Speech doesn’t have much detail on growing the provincial economy, says Tom Shypitka

Despite running into travel difficulties with flights and an unexpected road trip due to a massive snowstorm, Tom Shypitka was able catch a livestream of Tuesday’s Throne Speech while on the ferry to Vancouver Island.

However, the Kootenay East MLA says he wasn’t impressed, after having a chance to review the transcript.

“It was a real snoozer,” Shypitka said. “It was disappointing and an opportunity missed.”

Shypitka, with the B.C. Liberal Party, says the throne speech is an opportunity for government to showcase a vision and a plan for the future, but argued that Tuesday’s speech was light on details.

“I think this government is so on the edge, they can’t push anything forward with any kind of contention, because they’re afraid of losing government,” Shypitka said, referencing the confidence and supply agreement with the New Democrat Party and the B.C. Green Party, which enables majority status in the legislature over the B.C. Liberals, who are in opposition.

The speech hit on a number of topics touting the government’s action on affordability issues over the last few years, such as cutting Medical Services Premiums by half, and eliminating them entirely this year, a $7 billion investment over 10 years for housing announced last year, and a $1 billion investment over three years for childcare.

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Further topics included a $900 million investment announced last year to build, expand and upgrade schools, hiring more teachers, addressing the opioid crisis and tackling mental health and addictions issues.

Shypitka lamented a lack of detail on natural resource-based issues, which form a major part of the East Kootenay economy.

“There is nothing there about growing this province, there’s nothing on tourism,” Shypitka said. “I’m the mining critic; there was nothing on mining and keeping us competitive and how we can use our competitive advantage to be world leaders and responsible global leaders, there’s nothing there. No plans on the forest industry.

“The only thing they mentioned about oil and gas was about LNG Canada, which they probably pumped their chest on, came off the backs of a lot of hard work from the B.C. Liberal government for 16 years and, quite honestly, something they fought, and now they’re taking credit.”

A $40 billion Liquified Natural Gas (LNG) project was approved last October in Kitimat, after years of navigating through provincial and federal regulations.

The Throne Speech also addresssed reconciliation, noting that the province will be introducing legislation to implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples this year to bring provincial laws into harmony with it.

Given the last two wildfire seasons have been the worst on record, the Throne Speech noted the govenrment has invested $50 million over the next three years for wildfire prevention for First Nations and local governments.

In a news release, B.C. Premier John Horgan took aim at the previous B.C. Liberal government while highlighting action that the NDP has taken over the last year and a half.

“People deserve the opportunity to build a good life in the communities they call home, with housing and child care they can afford, quality public services, like health care and education, good jobs and a better future,” said Horgan. “For years, choices were made for the few at the top, while life became more difficult for everyone else. Our government is making different choices and working to build a better B.C. for everyone.”



trevor.crawley@cranbrooktownsman.com

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