The new session of the Legislature started this week with both the Throne Speech and the budget. It’s unusual to have both set piece occasions in one week, but the official opening was delayed to allow for debate, last week, on the balanced budget act and the need for a deficit.
The Throne Speech is the opportunity for a government to set down its agenda for the coming months and the budget, obviously, how that will be paid for. This time round, the former lacked lustre and the latter offered little, especially for our North Island communities.
On the day the Throne speech was delivered, there was a meeting in Campbell River discussing the plight of homeless First Nations youth; the issue of teenagers living on our streets and what we as a community should do.
And the day the budget was tabled was the day Catalyst announced the Elk Falls mill would be down until at least the end of March. Many people fear that it simply won’t start up again.
So I looked at both the Throne speech and the budget for something for our communities. Something which would help the homeless, something for workers, something for families.
There isn’t much there.
Everytime the government says it’s helping forest workers, it’s been referring to money from the federal government which was spread across the country. It’s now said there will be a further $30 million, for the whole province, for undefined community support.
But there’s no plan, no vision, for our forest sector. I raised the closure of the Catalyst mill
and its impact on the city of Campbell River as well as the impact the crisis is having on logging contractors
in question period but the former finance minister was correct when she said her government are spectators to the death of our forest industry.
And the budget and the throne speech saw nothing to deal with the mounting poverty in our communities, nothing to deal with the housing crisis. Nor was there anything for child care. For those who depend on ferries, there was no relief. Boards of Education are going to be told to make cuts.
And because we are in a recession, there are, in fact, cuts to various ministries, including to Aboriginal Reconciliation, to the Environment and other areas which in past years were pet projects for the government.
The headlines heralded the spending of billions of dollars on infrastructure. But looking at the details it’s money pouring into the lower mainland: for roads and bridges for the urban commuters and for the roof of BC place. There’s money going to hospitals, but no sign of any money for either our new hospitals or for the urgent repairs needed to our existing hospital.
And a word of warning for those thinking that this is as bad as it gets: the introduction to the budget states that a further $250 million in “savings” still has to be made. The government has also said, if reelected, it will bring in another budget in little more than six months.
We’re going to be debating the budget and the throne speech until the House rises at the beginning of April. If you have any issues or concerns you’d like to raise with me feel free to contact me at claire.trevena.mlaleg.bc.ca