The point that Premier John Horgan is trying to make is that his government cares about people and the other guys, meaning the B.C. Liberals, didn’t.
His NDP government cares about everybody – “she, he, and they.” The government cares about their hopes and dreams and worries and dreads. They list virtually all of them to make sure you get it.
They care about everything, from the number of hours of personal care per resident in rest homes, to the hassles in getting live-event tickets (they’re going to “stop ticket bots in their tracks”).
They care about dirty money and a clean ocean, about high-speed rail and even higher-speed internet. They care about “innovation corridors” and action plans. They care about MRIs and ICBC and ECEs (early childhood educators) too.
The throne speech that opens a legislative session is a free 45-minute pass for a premier to go on at great length. So Horgan made the most of it. Tuesday’s speech, written by the premier’s office and read by Lt.-Gov. Janet Austin on his behalf, drove home his point with abandon.
Then it backed up and drove through it again. Then it circled around and bashed it several more times for good measure.
NDP empathy is overwhelming and all-encompassing. You think B.C. spends too much time dwelling on Metro Vancouver’s transportation woes? Fret no more. The government is going to “take an all-of-B.C. approach” with an integrated transportation plan for everybody, everywhere.
“It could be argued that the previous government did not take adequate steps to address the changes it well knew were coming,” the speech noted.
Could be argued? The point was in relation to the forest industry, but the phrase sums up the secondary theme of the entire 21-page ode to Horgan’s 30 months in office. The Liberals don’t care. We do.
The reminders were sprinkled through every section. “For a long time, many people have been feeling stuck. The benefits were not fairly shared… Speculators treated real estate like a stock market… Years of minimal increases to public services left communities frustrated. Those years represent a lost opportunity.”
It was the theme they used in the 2017 election and it got them into a dead heat with the Liberals, after losing four times in a row.
It worked well enough then that they’ve relied on it for the first half of their term. Looks like they’re going to stick with it for the full ride.
Apart from fondly recounting everything in his desktop diary since he took over, Horgan also dropped a few news items into the mix. Women fleeing domestic violence will be getting five paid days leave later this year. There will be new moves to deal with the menace of guns in schools and hospitals. Increased support for police services is coming.
A new action plan to cut plastic pollution is in the works. And a climate adaptation plan to deal with the changes already happening is coming.
The traditional throne speech moment was vastly overshadowed by the unprecedented protest blockade. It sealed the legislature behind hundreds of people angry that some Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs’ objections to a natural gas pipeline don’t have the weight they think is warranted.
It made for some tense unpleasantness through the day. And it underscored how difficult the Indigenous reconciliation path that the legislature unanimously embarked on last year can get.
Referring to B.C.’s adoption of the UN stance for Indigenous rights, Horgan’s speech said: “The work has only just begun.”
Everybody at work in the barricaded building on Tuesday thought: “You’re telling me.”
New Democrats are particularly sensitive to the tensions. For several years they were closely aligned to the group of hereditary chiefs and their supporters when it came to pipeline politics. Then they gained power and had to swear to govern for everyone, rather than cater to select interest groups.
In that mode, they discovered that LNG is a huge win for B.C. They rewrote the former government’s offer to entice a consortium into building a plant. The pipeline is part and parcel of that deal. It looks like intense protests by people they once thought were their friends are also part of the package.