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Restore trust, reduce poverty

UPDATE: 2:35 p.m.

British Columbia's minority New Democrat government is promising in its throne speech to launch a poverty reduction strategy in an effort to help more than 500,000 people living below the poverty line.

The government passed legislation last year to cut B.C.'s overall poverty rate by 25 per cent and the child poverty rate by 50 per cent over the first five years of the plan.

Other items in the government's political agenda in the throne speech include rules to prevent the unfair resale of concert tickets and tabling legislation that makes B.C. the first province in Canada to implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

The speech, read by Lt.-Gov. Janet Austin, also says the government will also work to implement reforms that restore trust in the legislature.

The two top officials at the legislature were suspended during the last legislative sitting amid a police investigation and a subsequent report released by Speaker Darryl Plecas that details allegations of spending abuses.

NDP house leader Mike Farnworth said the government will work to develop tighter checks on all officials at the legislature to ensure strict spending and reporting rules.

Clerk of the house Craig James and sergeant-at-arms Gary Lenz were suspended amid the RCMP probe and both men have denied wrongdoing.

The throne speech did not contain details about the government's anti-poverty plans other than say, "B.C. will deliver its first-ever poverty reduction strategy to give people the opportunities and supports they need to reach their full potential."

Finance Minister Carole James is set to deliver the government's budget next week.


ORIGINAL: 2 p.m.

A snow storm that has disrupted travel on Vancouver Island also wiped out traditional ceremonies at the B.C. legislature today associated with the throne speech.

The usual military honour guard, ceremonial cannon salutes and a performance by the band from nearby Canadian Forces Base Esquimalt didn't take place because of the weather.

Lt.-Gov. Janet Austin still received a red carpet welcome, but the ceremony will be scaled back.

The throne speech read by Austin in the house sets the government's political agenda for the coming months.

A snow storm has forced school cancellations, road closures, and flight and ferry delays in Victoria and across much of Vancouver Island.

Austin made note of the weather when she attended the legislature to formally end the last session before the throne speech is read later today.

"It's wonderful to see you here on this crazy, snowy but actually very beautiful day," she told legislature members.

The house is sitting as all three parties search for answers surrounding allegations that have been made against the legislature's two most senior officials.

Sergeant-at-arms Gary Lenz and clerk Craig James have denied any wrongdoing after they were placed on administrative leave last November over allegations of overspending and questionable expenses in a report prepared by the Speaker.

NDP house leader Mike Farnworth said the government will work to develop tighter checks on all officials at the legislature to ensure strict spending and reporting rules.

Opposition Liberal Leader Andrew Wilkinson has called for a 20-point plan to put more restrictions on legislature officials, including bans on most foreign trips and mandatory retirement at the age of 75 for senior administrators.

The throne speech comes a week before Finance Minister Carole James delivers her next budget.



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