The start of the new legislative session usually doesn’t come with big, fully-formed announcements. Neither did this one.
I’m going to be honest: having written a few of them, I don’t very much care for Throne Speeches.
They’re all developed the same way.
First, compile a list of everything government has announced in the past 12 months. Compare it favourably to the previous government/scariest future opponent and find a few different ways to call them mistaken/negligent/generally odious. This is easy.
Second, get a (smaller) list of future plans, even if the legislation hasn’t been written yet. This is surprisingly hard.
Third, take the previous two, and shoehorn them into impressive-sounding buckets like “Making Life Better for People,” or “Sustainable Economy” – two real examples from this speech, equally at home in a BC Liberal or Green Throne Speech. (I’m pretty sure I used variations on either or both.)
Rare is the Throne Speech that contains big, detailed news. Today was no different.
The big items include a poverty reduction strategy, eliminating MSP premiums, expanding housing and child care, and implementing the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People, or UNDRIP. All have been previously announced.
But within those big items, there are many gradients of detail – and plans to have plans.
For example, concerned with sky-high fees for phones and data? The Throne promises consultation and a legislative review.
Excited by high-speed rail to Oregon and Washington State? Government is exploring the feasibility. (Bad timing given the announcement moments ago that California has abandoned its Los Angeles-San Francisco high speed rail plans due to exorbitant cost.)
Affordable child care a priority for you? The NDP will “set the foundation” for full implementation.
Concerned with the state of BC agriculture? Government plans to launch a food security task force.
Wondering what’s to become of the Broughton Archipelago fish farms and the people who work there? There’s a transition plan coming.
There are also hints of things to come, either in next week’s budget, or more generally “this year.” This includes delivering a poverty reduction strategy “this year,” and legislation to implement UNDRIP.
LNG Canada? Bring forward measures to bring it to fruition.
There are also some more concrete items.
The speech mentioned designating some recently-purchased lands as Class A provincial parks, banning ticket selling bots, creating a new Chinese-Canadian Museum and modernization of the Royal BC Museum in Victoria, and eliminating MSP premiums by 2020 – but keeping the Employers Health Tax. The double dip becomes a single one, I suppose.
Buried deep within the speech, there are two other nuggets of interest.
Interestingly, just before the conclusion, there’s a short section about the legislative spending scandal. It only says government will work with the Assembly to implement reforms.
Why is that interesting? It looks – and probably was – tacked on at the last minute, as if the NDP were unsure what or if more details would emerge. And underscoring the difference between the Legislative Assembly and Government creates some useful distance for the NDP.
Second, those whispering the NDP are sorely tempted to force an early election – and that they’d dearly love the Greens to be the ones to do it – may see a few nuggets.
Some of the wording – doing things “this year” instead of “this spring” or “this session” – is probably just a stylistic choice. But continuing to go all-in on LNG is a tea leaf many will see Andrew Weaver choosing to force an election on – or at least, the NDP daring him to.
Maclean Kay is Editor-in-Chief of The Orca