B.C. Premier John Horgan responds to questions during a postelection news conference in Vancouver, on Sunday, October 25, 2020. British Columbia's opposition Liberals and Greens acknowledge the COVID-19 pandemic has presented huge challenges for Horgan's government, but they say Monday's throne speech must outline a coherent plan for the province's economic, health, social and environmental future. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

Horgan’s NDP to bring in throne speech in B.C., Opposition wants coherent plan

VICTORIA — British Columbia’s opposition parties acknowledge the COVID-19 pandemic has presented huge challenges for Premier John Horgan’s government, but they say Monday’s throne speech must outline a coherent plan for the province’s economic, health, social and environmental future.

The speech is expected to set the government’s agenda following one last year that was dominated by COVID-19 recovery efforts after the NDP’s election win in October.

Finance Minister Selina Robinson is set to table the government’s first budget on April 20. Last December in a fiscal update she forecast a budget deficit nearing $14 billion.

Interim Liberal Leader Shirley Bond said the government’s economic, social and health programs throughout the pandemic have been unfocused and the Opposition will demand initiatives with straightforward goals.

“We expect premier Horgan to lay out a plan that deals with the significant issues that British Columbians care about,” Bond said in an interview. “It starts with the response to COVID-19 and what that looks like moving forward.”

The Liberals want more support for small- and medium-sized businesses as opposed to complex and slow relief programs, she said.

“It’s not enough to have one-off programs being announced all over the province,” said Bond. “One of the themes that has emerged with this government is a lack of strategic planning.”

NDP house leader Mike Farnworth said the throne speech will focus on getting B.C. through and beyond the pandemic.

“We want to get the pandemic behind us,” he said. “We want to build back stronger. We want to invest in people. We want to strengthen communities. We want to make sure that we are able to help businesses grow and hire.”

Farnworth said the budget will include details of government investment in communities and infrastructure, but the fight against the pandemic is paramount.

“Obviously critical is ensuring we get British Columbians vaccinated,” said Farnworth. “The next few months are going to be critical in that regard.”

Bond said the throne speech needs to present details about the government’s plans to create jobs and promote economic recovery in the short-term and after the pandemic.

“It is time for this government to lay out a plan that deals with some of the critical issues we are facing in B.C.,” Bond said.

Among the serious issues facing the province is the ongoing opioid overdose deaths, she said.

“We are in the middle of a crisis when it comes to mental health supports and an opioid crisis and despite a lot of talk we have seen little action that’s been effective on that front,” said Bond.

The B.C. Coroners Services reported a record number of illicit opioid overdose deaths in 2020, when 1,716 people died.

Adam Olsen, one of two B.C. Greens in the legislature, said the NDP has yet to offer a clear agenda since the fall election, when the party said it needed a majority to offer steady government during the pandemic.

“Most governments after they get elected have got a 100-day plan, very clearly articulating what their next steps and first steps are for the government,” he said. “That’s really been missing since November.”

Olsen said he recognizes the pandemic has been all-encompassing for the government and responses are required, but there are other issues facing the province, including the Site C dam.

“We’ve got one of the largest projects of any government in the history of this province and in this country, the Site C dam, that is very clearly troubled,” said Olsen.

Last month, Horgan said the hydroelectric dam faced “significant challenges” due to geotechnical issues and COVID-19 construction delays that would increase the estimated cost of the project to $16 billion and delay completion by one year to 2025.

The province is also facing environmental concerns about increased greenhouse gas emissions connected to the massive $40 billion LNG Canada project in northern B.C. and the Greens want the government to halt logging in an old-growth forest on southern Vancouver Island.

“We’ve got a government saying they’re addressing all those things, but there’s no coherent plan,” said Olsen. “When you don’t have that coherent plan you can look at, it’s very difficult to evaluate the success.”

Olsen said the government hasn’t yet been able to present its vision for the future.

“I hope that they use this throne speech to lay that vision out for British Columbians, more than just launching a program in response to something, fixing it on the fly and then claiming success.”

Just Posted

Mayor Rick Bonnett. (Screenshot)
WATCH: Ponoka council calls on gov’t to support rural small businesses

Ponoka council is calling on the provincial government to increase funding to… Continue reading

Pumpjacks draw oil out of the ground near Olds, Alta., Thursday, July 16, 2020. A new report suggests the economic impact of the pandemic led to a massive increase in federal aid to Canada's oil patch. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Alberta economy ‘still reeling,’ says ATB Financial

Alberta’s economy is still feeling the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and… Continue reading

Ella Stoner, five, is ready to cut off her hair and donate it to A Child’s Voice Foundation. (Photo by Lauren Stoner Photography)
Central Alberta girl to donate her ‘princess hair’ to A Child’s Voice Foundation

A five-year-old girl from Rimbey has never had a haircut before. Now,… Continue reading

Asymptomatic testing will now be available for "priority groups" who are most likely to spread the COVID-19 virus to vulnerable or at-risk populations. File photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS
Alberta adds 1,195 new COVID-19 cases Saturday

Red Deer has dropped to 760 active cases

The Minnesota Wild celebrate their overtime victory over the Vegas Golden Knights in Game 1 of a first-round NHL hockey playoff series Sunday, May 16, 2021, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/David Becker)
Eriksson Ek’s OT goal lifts Wild past Vegas 1-0

LAS VEGAS (AP) — Joel Eriksson Ek’s goal at 3:20 of overtime… Continue reading

Toronto Blue Jays' Lourdes Gurriel Jr., celebrates after hitting a double against the Philadelphia Phillies during the third inning of a baseball game Sunday, May 16, 2021, in Dunedin, Fla. (AP Photo/Mike Carlson)
Girardi, Segura have confrontation as Phils lose to Jays

Blue Jays 10 Phillies 8 DUNEDIN, Fla. (AP) — The injury-depleted Philadelphia… Continue reading

New York Islanders' Kyle Palmieri (21) returns to the bench after scoring during the first period in Game 1 of an NHL hockey Stanley Cup first-round playoff series against the Pittsburgh Penguins in Pittsburgh, Sunday, May 16, 2021. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)
Palmieri’s OT winner lifts Isles by Penguins 4-3 in Game 1

PITTSBURGH (AP) — The New York Islanders brought Kyle Palmieri home at… Continue reading

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, speaks during a Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions hearing to examine an update from Federal officials on efforts to combat COVID-19, Tuesday, May 11, 2021 on Capitol Hill in Washington. (Jim Lo Scalzo/Pool via AP)
Fauci says pandemic exposed ‘undeniable effects of racism’

ATLANTA (AP) — The immunologist who leads the COVID-19 response in the… Continue reading

Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin, vice-president of logistics and operations at the Public Health Agency of Canada, participates in a news conference on the COVID-19 pandemic in Ottawa, on Friday, Jan. 15, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang
Feds face growing calls for answers after general overseeing vaccine effort sidelined

OTTAWA — The federal Liberal government is facing growing calls for answers… Continue reading

Conservative MP Ron Liepert rises during Question Period on Parliament Hill, Friday, March 10, 2017 in Ottawa. Ron Liepert says these days, the phone calls and emails from people wanting to talk about his party's climate plan have slowed. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang
Alberta MP pitches Conservative carbon price with a 24-pack of Pilsner

OTTAWA — Ron Liepert says these days, the phone calls and emails… Continue reading

A sign marks Stairs Place in the Hydrostone district in the North end of Halifax on Thursday, May 13, 2021. The street was named for William Grant Stairs, a Canadian explorer from Halifax who helped lead some of the most controversial expeditions through the African continent. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan
Where the streets have explorers’ names, some Halifax residents call for change

HALIFAX — When builders created Halifax’s distinctive Hydrostone neighbourhood more than a… Continue reading

Riley Oldford, 16, suffers from cerebral palsy. He was the first youth in the Northwest Territories to get a COVID-19 vaccine. Here he receives the needle from nurse practitioner Janie Neudorf in Yellowknife on Thursday May 6, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Bill Braden
People with disabilities even more alone during pandemic: cerebral palsy spokeswoman

YELLOWKNIFE — Riley Oldford is usually out playing sledge hockey or hanging… Continue reading

Most Read