B.C.’s opposition parties geared up for a legislative session with a thin agenda from the NDP government Wednesday, as Premier John Horgan faced questions for what was not in the government’s throne speech setting out its priorities for 2022.
Interim leader Shirley Bond set the tone for opposition questions with her initial response, describing the “big news” from the speech as a repeated 2020 vow to split the forests, lands and natural resources ministry into two ministries: “This is a two-term government that took the opportunity to recap the last four and a half years and repeat promises they haven’t fulfilled.”
Horgan said the speech highlighted important measures for the year ahead, including an economic plan to be presented next week by Jobs Minister Ravi Kahlon, with skills training to close B.C.’s labour gap in the coming years. Reorganizing forests and lands has been “a massive job over the past 12 months” to streamline permits and land use that rural communities and the economy depend on, he said.
Horgan highlighted speech’s pledge to grow the agriculture and technology sector to build on the value of B.C.’s agricultural land reserve.
“I’m reminded of how little Netherlands produces not just food for themselves, not just flowers for the world, but an extraordinary amount of food for their neighbours on a small footprint,” Horgan said. “Here in British Columbia, it became abundantly clear through the floods in the Fraser Valley and Sumas Prairie, particularly, that our agricultural sector is strong, it’s resilient, but it needs to be there for the long term.”
Incoming B.C. Liberal leader Kevin Falcon listed what the speech didn’t mention, including the housing affordability crisis and disaster recovery for communities.
“How is it possible we can have a throne speech that doesn’t even reference Merritt?” Falcon said in a video response posted to social media. “How is it possible to have a throne speech that doesn’t even touch on Lytton, when we haven’t seen any progress whatsoever to replace any of the homes that were razed during the forest fires? How is it possible that there’s no mention of the Sumas Prairie, and all the impact the flooding had on farmers there? That seems remarkable to me.”
B.C. Green Party leader Sonia Furstenau praised the speech’s emphasis on climate change and economic inequality, but commented, “instead of offering a vision for the future, the government patted themselves on the back for past initiatives and re-announced projects that have been underway for years.”