The start of a new legislative session is always interesting. The Speech from the Throne is the government’s way of articulating its vision and plans for the coming legislative session. This year, the Kelowna area received a special honour, as I had the privilege of moving the speech.
The focus of this session is largely jobs. As Premier Christy Clark says: Canada Starts Here. That’s no mere slogan. As Asia-Pacific countries grow in size and prosperity, Canada can no longer see itself as a primarily Atlantic nation with a big western backyard. Instead, the west is increasingly the driver of the Canadian economy – starting with B.C.
The B.C. Jobs Plan is ambitious and sweeping. Some of the highlights include:
We will have eight new mines in operation and nine more expanded or upgraded, and at least one liquefied natural gas (LNG) pipeline and terminal operation in Kitimat by 2015. To clear bottlenecks of goods for export to Asia, Port Metro Vancouver’s Deltaport and the Port of Prince Rupert’s Ridley terminal will undergo significant upgrades and in operation by 2014.
These are necessary steps. For example, exports of metallic minerals in 2010 were 162 times that in 1990. If our infrastructure can accommodate it, those figures will increase: B.C. exports increased 13 per cent for the first seven months of 2011 compared with 2010 – despite a drop in shipments to the United States.
Government can help by being “B.C.’s biggest salesman.” To that end, we will create a Major Investments Office to work with investors, to take projects on paper and make them into profitable – and job-creating – realities. Similarly, before the end of the year, a Jobs and Investment Board will be operational. Its role will entail clearing the way for job creation while continuing to monitor key economic and social indicators.
The government is investing $24 million across our natural resource ministries over two years in order to eliminate the backlog in key authorizations that are preventing projects from proceeding.
The Jobs Plan also aims to increase the number of international students by 50 per cent over the next four years – which besides contributing some 22,000 jobs, studies have shown conclusively that international students actually create more space for domestic students – exciting news for UBCO and Okanagan College.
But there are other aspects of the Throne Speech that deserve mention. Premier Clark has also demonstrated a commitment to open government. We will introduce changes to the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act, and new and more online tools to enhance public engagement opportunities.
The Throne Speech also pledged to continue to build stronger, safer communities. That’s why, for example, we will introduce the new Family Law Act, which will promote early resolution of family law problems. To add capacity to the courts, we will introduce legislation to relax restrictions that limit service time of senior part-time judges. These measures will help address instances of cases dismissed because they go over time – which is unacceptable.
It’s a bold, optimistic vision, from a bold, optimistic leader. One I’m proud to stand behind.
For more information on the B.C. Jobs Plan, visit www.bcjobsplan.ca
Norm Letnick is MLA for Kelowna-Lake Country. Visit his website at www.normletnickmla.bc.ca