In its speech from the throne on Feb. 13, the minority NDP government promised to tackle housing affordability while cracking down on profit-taking by speculators. It also promised additional support for child care and post-secondary technical training.
Parksville-Qualicum MLA Michelle Stilwell, meanwhile, said the throne speech delivered by Lt.-Gov. Judith Guichon was notable for what it lacked — namely, an economic development plan to generate jobs and the money to pay for those items on the NDP wish list.
“I saw a throne speech Tuesday filled with hope and possibility and platitudes,” said Stilwell, Vancouver Island’s only sitting Liberal Party representative. “But I saw it to be pretty vague on details, and light on economic strategy and job creation.
“Certainly, I’m disappointed there doesn’t seem to be an economic strategy going forward. There has to be a way to pay for all these promises being made.”
Premier John Horgan said more details would be forthcoming when the NDP unveils its budget Feb. 20.
In last Tuesday’s throne speech, the NDP vowed to address housing demand, including relief for renters, and stabilize “out-of-control” real estate and rental markets in the province. It suggested part of that strategy would be to take on speculators who drive up demand and prices, but was not clear on how that would be achieved.
“Businesses cannot grow when the skilled workers they need are shut out by the high cost of housing,” Guichon said in the speech. “Renters are afraid of eviction or unexpected rent increases that will force them to relocate when prices are sky-high and vacancies hover at record lows.”
But Stilwell noted the speech showed a marked change from the NDP’s campaign rhetoric during last spring’s provincial election.
“The NDP ran on a platform of creating 114,000 housing units, including rentals (over a 10-year period),” she told The NEWS. “That’s not coming to fruition. In the speech they made a reference to 1,700 housing units. At that rate it will take 60 years to reach their goal.”
Similarly, while the speech emphasized the government’s commitment to affordable and acccessible child care, it made no mention of the NDP campaign commitment to $10 a day childcare.
Horgan admitted to reporters after the speech that, “It’s important to remember that the $10-a-day slogan was to brand the childcare plan.”
Stilwell said the government walking back from its campaign promises results from the NDP’s lack of experience after serving in opposition for the previous 16 years.
“Definitely, we need to wait and see what comes out in the budget,” Stilwell said. “But this government seems to have a different way of governing, now that they’re realizing how hard governing is.”
Meanwhile, Stilwell said, the B.C. Liberal Party enjoyed a strong several days leading up to the reading of the throne speech. It elected as its new leader Andrew Wilkinson, the candidate Stilwell had endorsed, and also saw candidate Ben Stewart win a by-election for the seat in the Kelowna West riding, left vacant when former party leader and premier Christy Clark stepped down last August.
“We’ve had a great week,” Stilwell said. “Now, we’ve got a newly invigorated caucus committed to holding this government to account, certainly, when the budget comes out.”
— With files from Black Press