Throne speech promises to ‘pay back’ B.C. taxpayers

Tuesday, February 14, 2017 (All day)

Angry protesters aren’t feeling the love this Valentine’s Day as they gather outside the B.C. Legislature.

“The status quo of growth at all costs, polluted waterways, of trampling indigenous rights is no longer acceptable,” says protester Torrance Coste of the Wilderness Committee.

“We treasure our ocean, we treasure our whales, we treasure the land up in the Peace River and we’re really angry that our liberal government is not standing up for what we really love,” adds protester Terry Dance-Bennink.

The sixth session of the 40th Parliament is the last session before the provincial election May 9th and that means a whole lot of political posturing — including a shot at the Trump administration.

“Risk is all around us,” Lieutenant Governor Judith Guichon read from the throne speech. “A weak global economy, the rising tide of protectionism in the United States and Europe. We must stand strong on our principles of open and fair trade.”

The throne speech is premier Christy Clark’s last chance to offer some pre-election goodies.

It touched on housing, health care, education, jobs and even the opioid crisis.

But not much was new —  except for the promise of using the $2.25 billion surplus to ‘pay British Columbians back’.

“Your government is now in a position to pay you back, to relieve some financial burdens and to invest in your household and your families,” Guichon said.

It’s expected that will take the shape of a tax cut. But premier Clark isn’t divulging any details until next week’s budget is released, only saying that they thought long and hard what to do.

“When we have a surplus it means we’re taking too much money from people in their taxes so we want to make sure we find ways to give that money back to citizens because I just don’t believe government can spend people’s money better than they can,” premier Clark told reporters. 

But NDP leader John Horgan says it’s nothing more than a bribe.

“When the Lieutenant Governor said ‘pay back’, it’s a good thing she didn’t say ‘pay off’ because that’s what it sounds like to be just before the election,” Horgan says.

New Democrats say there are far bigger issues to talk about.

“There was no mention of the Ministry of Children and Family Development after the scathing report, yet another scathing report, we received last week on the death of Alex Gervais,” Horgan told reporters. “This is a self-serving effort by the B.C. Liberals to give people the impression they’re working for them.”

Special envoy appointed to end softwood lumber dispute with U.S.

Forestry, and the current trade dispute with the United States , was also mentioned in the throne speech, along with the promise to send a special envoy to resolve the issue.

To that end, Premier Clark appointed former B.C. deputy minister David Emerson.

He’s tasked with helping secure a new Softwood Lumber Agreement.

Emerson is a former Canfor CEO and he was the federal minister of international trade when a Softwood Lumber Agreement was signed in 2006

Clark says protecting jobs and the forestry industry are the number priority and it’s “all hands on deck.”

Emerson is expected to go to Washington in March.

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