British Columbia government looks toward 'brighter future' in throne speech

'Brighter future' ahead

UPDATE 2:30 p.m.

The British Columbia government is looking beyond the COVID-19 pandemic in its speech from the throne to other priorities including help for the economy, improved health care and taking on inequality.

Lt.-Gov. Janet Austin delivered the speech in the legislature on behalf of the government outlining its priorities more than a year after the pandemic began and amid a third wave of surging infections.

The speech says the province's NDP government will hire thousands of new workers for long-term care and fix cracks exposed in the system by COVID-19, improve surgery wait times and build new hospitals, including one in Surrey.

It commits to record spending on infrastructure including replacing the George Massey Tunnel and building the Surrey-Langley SkyTrain line, as well as legislation to support a fund to help B.C. companies scale up and hire local workers.

The government also promises to develop British Columbia's first anti-racism law and introduce legislation to remove barriers to accessibility and inclusion felt by those in B.C. with disabilities.

It says the government is committed to raising the minimum wage to $15 per hour in June, and promises to get thousands of rental homes built while also expanding $10-a-day daycare.

The speech says B.C. residents need to come together with the same spirit that saw them bang pots and pans for front-line workers last year.

"It is this same spirit of common purpose that we must summon again to get us safely through to the end of the pandemic, so that we can start building towards that brighter future we know is possible," the speech says.

ORIGINAL 6:50 a.m.

British Columbia's NDP government is set to present its throne speech later today, laying out its priorities more than a year after the COVID-19 pandemic began.

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

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.

Farnworth says the budget will include details of government investment in infrastructure, but will also keep focused on the fight against COVID-19.

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

Adam Olsen, one of two B.C. Greens in the legislature, says the NDP has yet to offer a clear agenda since their fall election win.

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