Skip to main content

B.C. Premier Christy Clark speaks during a news conference in Vancouver, B.C., on May 30, 2017.DARRYL DYCK/The Canadian Press

The Throne Speech that British Columbians hear on Thursday will introduce them to the new, postelection Liberals: From welfare increases and daycare subsidies to campaign-finance reform, the speech will embrace policies that Premier Christy Clark's government had previously dismissed as too expensive or unnecessary.

The speech represents a recalibrated agenda based on what the Liberals learned from the May 9 election: They lost their majority because voters in urban areas found flaws in their campaign on ethics, affordability and the environment.

The new plan that will be presented in the legislature "reflects all of the best ideas from all of the parties that we heard in the last election," Ms. Clark told a party luncheon on Wednesday.

Read more: How B.C.'s Liberal minority government could fall, and what happens next

Related: B.C. Liberals to reverse course on key policies in Throne Speech

After six years as Premier, she said she is prepared to accept that she and her government made mistakes. "I'm going to do my level best to make sure that our government looks, feels and is different from the government that British Columbians have had for the last six years."

As much as Ms. Clark is offering a mea culpa for a failed election campaign, the speech is laying the foundations for the next one – which could come soon.

The Throne Speech is expected to be voted down on a confidence motion, triggering the defeat of the Liberals after 16 years in power.

That could lead to an NDP minority government backed by the Green Party, but it also could result in an early election if Lieutenant-Governor Judith Guichon decides the numbers are too close to produce a stable government.

The NDP and Greens combined have one more seat than the Liberals.

For the past week, the Liberals have trickled out elements of the Throne Speech to ensure maximum effect.

The promises are crafted to appeal to those voters who turned away from them in May and appear to have embraced the Greens.

"People want a better balance," Ms. Clark said on Wednesday.

"They want us to take that economic strength we have … and they want us to make sure we are investing that back in sharing it better with people who need it."

She is banking on better-than-expected surpluses to pay for all this without sliding into deficit.

Before there is any chance of a snap election, however, legislature will have to vote on this plan, and by incorporating new promises taken from the Green and NDP platforms, the Liberals are daring MLAs on the other side to vote against the very changes they promised to fight for.

A poverty-reduction plan is now in scope. Climate action is back on the front burner. After years of warring with Metro Vancouver mayors, Ms. Clark believes it is time to break the logjam on public transit. And ideas the Liberals had dismissed as too expensive – such as the NDP's proposed daycare subsidy – have become affordable.

There is, finally, urgency around reform of campaign financing. The BC Liberals had defended a system with almost no limits on who can donate or how much, making British Columbia an outlier as Alberta, Ontario and the federal government moved toward reform.

Throughout the campaign, Ms. Clark stuck to an agenda that touted resource development and strict fiscal discipline. It served the party well in rural B.C., but cost it seats in key urban ridings.

Ms. Clark has since appointed new cabinet ministers who will be the face of a party that is trying to reconnect with urban and green-minded voters.

Jordan Sturdy is a former backbencher who was endorsed by GreenPAC, a national organization that supports environmental leadership. He is the Minister of Environment seeking to kick-start the climate-action agenda.

Sam Sullivan, the former mayor of Vancouver, is tasked as community minister with reaching out to Metro Vancouver mayors to put public-transit expansion back on the rails.

As well, Ms. Clark has tapped two new MLAs from Metro Vancouver to help sell her agenda: Michael Lee, her parliamentary secretary for Housing Affordability, and Jas Johal, her minister of technology.

The Throne Speech will balance out these new commitments with promises to remember rural voters – that is where the Liberals have their political strength, and they will not forget that.

However, party insiders acknowledge their campaign did not address the concerns of urban voters.

But some also point out that this should not have come as a surprise – Ms. Clark's campaign team ignored advice to adopt bold measures on issues that would appeal to voters struggling with the cost of living in Metro Vancouver.

As a consequence, Ms. Clark is offering them up as her government is about to fall, and validating the promises of the opposition that is poised to replace it.

British Columbia Green party Leader Andrew Weaver says shared values on climate issues is what ultimately led his party to choose to work with the NDP over the Liberals. The NDP and Greens signed a four-year deal Tuesday.

The Canadian Press