Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Not a whole lot for you in this throne speech

The throne speech, written by the premier's office and read by the lieutenant governor in the legislature, is supposed to set out the government’s intentions.

The problem is the speeches are generally vague.

And in the case of Gordon Campbell's governments, they frequently sketch giant initiatives or tout some grand new cause or direction.

But often, not much happens.

In 2005, the pre-election throne speech featured the "five great goals for a golden decade," which sounded like a slogan from Mao-era China. There hasn't been much talk since of being "a Canadian pioneer in support for people with disabilities and special needs, children at risk and seniors."

After the election, the throne speech for the new session focused on the urgent need for a "new relationship" with First Nations. That didn't get far either.

The 2006 throne speech was about health care reform and announced a "province-wide conversation on health." That $3 million effort - as well as Campbell's fact-finding trip to France, Sweden, Norway and the U.K. - produced few real results.

And 2007 was the year Campbell seized climate change as not just an issue, but also a moral crusade. It's too early to say how much progress will be made.

There wasn't any over-riding theme in this week's throne speech. There was the expected cheering for the Olympics and a defence of the harmonized sales tax.

The speech promised an effort to speed up approvals for big projects like mines. The province hopes to persuade Ottawa that only one environmental assessment is needed for major projects, instead of both federal and provincial reviews.

At the same time the government plans to streamline its own approval process and try to persuade municipalities to look at ways they can make it easier and faster for projects to go ahead.

The speech also promised a review of property tax rates in the province, likely aimed at reducing conflict between municipalities and big industrial taxpayers who claim they are gouged.

The government is also going to push "green energy" projects ahead more quickly, despite concerns about sharply rising electricity rates as a result of that direction. Bioenergy - using wood to produce power or ethanol - is to get a boost.

At the same time, the government announced a ban on mining and oil and gas production in the Flathead Valley on the Montana border in the province's southeast.

What was in it for the average family?

Not much. Families with children under 18 will be able to put off paying their property taxes until their children are older, but there were no details.

The speech talked about "significant reforms" in the education system, but gave no useful information.

More parental involvement, "new forms of schooling," smarter approaches to cut administrative costs were all promised. The latter could mean fewer school districts or elimination of school boards.

The government is still keen on public-private partnerships and the speech promised a P3 dealing with education support services.

And the promised pre-school for three- and four-year-olds is apparently to be delivered by the private sector, not the school system.

The speech sounded another warning about health care costs without offering any clear idea what the government plans to do about them. There was talk of innovation and new choices for patients.

But there was also a warning that health care might become harder to get. "Stemming the unaffordable growth in health costs is essential in meeting our obligation to balance the budget by 2013," the speech said.

Poverty, housing affordability, social issues, employment opportunities - they all got short shrift in the speech.

In fact, told people to expect less. "We must curtail expectations of government," the speech warned.

Given the spending cuts coming in a majority of ministries in next month's budget - and the current shortfalls in health, education and almost every other area - that's probably the critical message from the speech.

Footnote: The green power push will be among the more controversial elements of the policy. The government wants to increase electricity efforts, but major industrial users have warned the plan could double power rates in B.C. with little public benefit.

5 comments:

Ed Seedhouse said...

No. I won't expect less of government. I expect MORE from government, not less. That's why we have a government, and if you can't provide that, get out and make way for someone who will.

Anonymous said...

Beware the Ides of March. This government will stab us in the back yet again.

Stanley B. said...

I agree with Anonymous. What was the purpose of this throne speech then? Why the timing? Look at the small print this time Paul.

Read the BC Rail Blog to see what's really likely to be going on:

http://bctrialofbasi-virk.blogspot.com/

It's not simply employee "lack of training" in the court system and in the various government ministries that should be garnering front page headlines. Nice way to shift blame away from those in charge, those with the power.

No, as is usual in these things, only years later will those who poke through the entrails of a once proud and thriving society, will it "dawn" on people what has happened -- the gutting of our society in this province, right under our noses. Duplessis all over again, but with more serious and devastating consequences.

Right now, there's a growing chorus of small, wounded voices crying, begging for someone to see, to hear. But the roar of the "bread and circuses" has the masses enthralled. For now.

DPL said...

Gosh we read it the T/C today just how good things will be for families if the government follows up with their speach. Am I holding my breath? well not really. Gordo has strung a number of lines before that he sort of forgets before long.

seed star said...

Nice sharing guys,

Cheers,
:)