BC Premier David Eby says his government’s focus in 2023 will be on housing, affordability, public safety, health care and climate change.
Those are the key takeaways from an unconventional opening of a new sitting of Parliament that saw Premier Eby absent from the Legislative Assembly while BC Lieutenant Governor Janet Austin delivered Eby’s first Speech from the Throne as Premier.
Although the remarks are always read by the Lieutenant Governor, they are drafted by the Premier’s Office and traditionally, the Premier is seated in the Legislature during the speech surrounded by friends, colleagues, and supporters. However, this long-standing throne speech date conflicted with a meeting of all Canadian Premiers in Ottawa ahead of an important meeting on health funding with the Prime Minister. When faced with the choice, Premier Eby chose to prioritize attending the Premiers meeting to advocate for health dollars for BC. Although long-time Legislature watchers struggled to recall a situation where a sitting Premier missed their own speech from the throne, Eby’s choice was a smart one given the critical importance of health care access for British Columbians right now.
This choice of action over words underscores Premier Eby’s sense of urgency on key issues. Facing a provincial election in 2024 and an electorate that wants progress and results, BC’s premier has little time for pomp and circumstance. He needs to deliver or face a rough electoral ride during the next election Eby’s government will advance progress on two different channels: fiscal and legislative.
On the fiscal side, Eby says BC will spend its $5.7 billion (or more) surplus, with the premier positioning the additional spending as “investing the surplus back into people and services.” Already we have seen money earmarked for housing (including a $500-million rental protection fund) and health care (a new deal with doctors that gives big raises to family physicians). The clear message from today’s Throne Speech is that more is on the way.
- A refreshed housing strategy with corresponding legislation promised in the fall session
- Reinvestment in BC’s public health care system to shorten waiting times, calling out the move towards private health care solutions a, “dangerous step towards a two-tiered system we know British Columbians do not want”
- Focused investments in cancer care detection, diagnostics and treatment
- Future Ready, a skills training plan to improve access to education and training
- Childcare savings for parents with preschool and school-aged children, with details to be announced in the fall
On the legislative side, the government is planning an active session. As many as two dozen new pieces of legislation are expected. That includes new laws that the government says will:
- Make pay transparency the law, to “shine a light on the gender pay gap”
- Enable the seizure of property and assets from gangs and money launderers
- Make companies pay for environmental clean-up on abandoned sites
- Addressing the non-consensual sharing of intimate images
- Improve access to electric vehicle charging stations in condo buildings
- Update BC’s emergency and disaster management to “improve BC’s ability to respond and recover from climate disasters”
Facing the government this session will be a sharper Opposition. BC Liberal Leader Kevin Falcon’s attacks on the government over its penchant for “promises instead of results” will persist and grow louder as BC grows closer to the next election.
Up next for Premier Eby will be the 2023 BC Budget and Fiscal Plan. Unlike Throne Speeches, which are high-level and aspirational, the budget will be Eby provides real, practical details about where he’s assigning money and resources. The budget will be unveiled on February 28.