Premier Christy Clark’s pre-election throne speech promises the BC Liberal government’s fifth straight balanced budget, while providing “financial relief” to taxpayers and increasing health and education funding.
Surplus government revenue provides the means, says the speech, read Tuesday by B.C. Lieutenant Governor Judith Guichon to open the last session of the B.C. legislature before the May 9 provincial election.
“That money belongs to you,” the speech says, taking credit for growth in the technology and tourism industries as well as provincial spending control for B.C.’s nation-leading job creation. Recent surpluses have mainly been driven by increased population growth and income taxes, most of which has taken place in the urban southwest.
Taking questions from reporters after the speech, Clark wouldn’t specify what kind of tax relief is coming in the Feb. 21 budget, but she ruled out sending cheques out to individuals.
“What you’re going to see in the coming weeks is a contrast in the legislature between those who’d like to take the surplus and grow government, make it bigger, figure out how they can spend your money better than you can, and those of us who believe that when we have a surplus, it means we are taking too much money from people in their taxes,” Clark said.
The speech opens with a warning about “a weak global economy, [and] the rising tide of protectionism in the United States and Europe.” Clark has named a new trade representative to Washington DC, former federal cabinet minister and Canfor CEO David Emerson.
In health care, the government promises to meet its commitment to add 500 new addiction treatment beds by the end of March. Health spending will continue to grow in the budget to be revealed Feb. 21, reaching $19 billion by 2018.
The government repeats its commitment to add more teachers in response to a 15-year court battle over class size, decided in favour of the B.C. Teachers’ Federation late last year.
NDP leader John Horgan said with 80 days to go before an election, a vague promise to give people back some of their own money doesn’t address the deficiencies of the BC Liberal government.
“We all know that every day is Valentine’s day when you’re a donor to the BC Liberal Party,” Horgan said. “Unfortunately British Columbians today received a chocolate box with an IOU in it.”