It’s time to spend money now, because it won’t be there next year.
That’s the overarching message of the first Throne Speech delivered by Premier David Eby’s government on Monday (Feb. 6).
B.C.’s Lt. Governor Janet Austin told the Legislature that the government’s budget surplus of $5.7 billion won’t be there next year as economists are predicting a global slow-down in the face of inflation and other forces.
“Your government has a proactive plan to deal with these global trends,” Austin said. “It will put this year’s surplus to work for people — to support them now and for the long-term.”
By law, surplus money not spent by March 31 must go toward B.C.’s debt.
“Some say we should respond to a downturn by pulling back, reducing services, or by making people pay out of pocket for health care,” Austin said, adding that would only reduce support for people who are only now finding their footing after the pandemic.
The speech promises “record new investments” in public health care, housing for middle-class families and public transit among other issues including public safety, while helping to reduce the cost of living for ordinary British Columbians.
The government also promises to build a greener economy by introducing a skills-training program called Future Ready, improve transportation and invest in hydrogen.
Austin said the government will not turn its strategy to build more affordable housing into laws until the fall, after having worked with local governments, homebuilders and communities.
New potential promises include new pay transparency legislation, new childcare support measures for parents with school-aged children and tougher penalties for rich tax evaders and corrupt officials from around the world who use B.C. as a safe haven for their money.
Austin said government will send “a strong message by seizing their homes and profits,” which will be used to support “British Columbians who want strong, safe, and secure communities.”
New legislation in the spring session to address “malicious and exploitative non-consensual sharing of intimate images,” a practice often described as ‘revenge porn,” was also highlighted Monday.
Austin’s speech only included two references to the forest industry and four references to rural B.C., with promises for RCMP in remote and rural communities and an undefined “rural community strategy” that would “respond to the unique needs of a growing rural British Columbia” without much more detail.