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Skills development, spending promised in B.C.’s throne speech

Legislature session starts with list of past achievements
B.C. Lt. Governor Janet Austin (red jacket) enters the legislature to present the government’s throne speech, Feb. 8, 2022. (Hansard TV)

B.C. Premier John Horgan presented a 2022 throne speech Tuesday with few new commitments for the coming legislature session, including a post-pandemic economic plan and a focus on skills training to meet a coming labour shortage.

The economic plan “will improve the movement of goods in and out of our province and grow B.C.’s thriving agriculture and agritech sector,” said the speech, read by B.C. Lieut. Gov. Janet Austin at the legislature Feb. 8.

The formal greeting by the premier for the Queen’s representative on the legislature steps was not held, with tight security around the building to prepare for protests. Vaccine mandates, old-growth logging and B.C.’s natural gas development have sparked sometimes unruly demonstrations in recent weeks and years.

Finance Minister Selina Robinson is set to present a new budget Feb. 22, which the speech says will include new spending to expand and reduce the cost of child care, doubling spaces with federal assistance. A commitment to “train people for the jobs of tomorrow,” is included with others, likely continuing deficit spending that has continued through the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Our government knows we can’t cut our way to a better future,” Horgan said after the throne speech was read. “Building a stronger B.C. is not about pulling back.”

The government vows to move ahead with its plan to split the forest, lands and natural resource operations ministry into two, with a new lands and resources ministry to “better support goals of reconciliation, economic development and environmental protection.” In announcing his new cabinet after the October 2020 snap election, Horgan assigned Stikine MLA Nathan Cullen to lead the creation of the new lands ministry.

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Much of the speech recapped achievements in the previous years, such as an overhaul of Insurance Corp. of B.C. with reduced rates, and a promise to create Canada’s first Chinese-Canadian museum. Tying minimum wage to inflation, first done by the previous government, is again promised in addition to the increases brought in before 2022.

A cooling-off period for home purchases, announced in November, is to take effect this year.

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