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British Columbia B.C. Throne Speech promises action on housing speculation, money for childcare

Premier John Horgan and Lt.-Gov. Judith Guichon meet on the steps of Legislature before the Speech from the Throne in the legislative assembly in Victoria on Feb. 13, 2018.

CHAD HIPOLITO/THE CANADIAN PRESS

British Columbia Premier John Horgan says he hopes his province's trade dispute with Alberta over oil pipelines will not get in the way of federal support for key affordability programs that his government plans to begin to roll out this year.

In Tuesday's Throne Speech, Mr. Horgan's NDP government is promising to begin the province's largest investment in affordable housing and childcare subsidies for tens of thousands of B.C. families.

The scope of those ambitious programs will depend on federal funding and Mr. Horgan told reporters the interprovincial dispute over the Kinder Morgan oil pipeline expansion program should not derail what he called a productive relationship with Ottawa.

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"Certainly we have a pretty positive relationship with the federal government to this point in time," he said. Alberta's response to B.C.'s latest actions to stop the Kinder Morgan expansion plans – including Alberta's ban on B.C. wine – "has led to more discussions than I anticipated, but I'm not deterred by that."

Alberta Premier Rachel Notley is demanding Ottawa move to rein in British Columbia, saying B.C. is trying to usurp federal authority.

Mr. Horgan said threats and coercion won't go over well with British Columbians. "I believe all British Columbians want to see co-operative federalism, not coercive federalism," he said. "We are equal partners in this great country."

Mr. Horgan repeated his intent to impose a temporary ban on the increase of oil exports while the province reviews a review of oil-spill issues, but noted that any move is still subject to consultation with British Columbians. "When it comes to the transport of raw or diluted bitumen on our coast ... I believe that is a risk too great."

B.C. officials are to meet again on Wednesday with their federal counterparts to discuss the jurisdictional questions raised by the prospect of the province trying to control the output of a interprovincial pipeline.

The Throne Speech omits two specific promises made by the NDP in the provincial election last year: a yearly rebate for renters and $10-a-day daycare.

"Safe, decent housing is a right that is under threat by speculators, domestic and foreign, who seek windfall profits at the expense of people who work, live and pay taxes in B.C.," Lieutenant-Governor Judith Guichon read in the speech that outlines the government's agenda for the coming year.

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She said the government will introduce legislation this spring to crack down on tax fraud, tax evasion and money laundering in B.C.'s real estate market. The speech hints at, but does not explicitly promise, a real estate speculation tax. "Your government believes that people seeking to profit from B.C.'s real estate must also contribute to housing solutions."

The NDP campaigned in the last election on a promise to make life more affordable for British Columbians – a key issue that helped the New Democrats to pick up enough seats in the Vancouver region to topple the 16-year-old Liberal government. But the minority government requires the support of the third-place Green Party, which has argued against universal subsidies for renters and childcare. The Greens want a greater emphasis on helping those families in need.

Green Party Leader Andrew Weaver applauded the agenda outlined in the Throne Speech but said he wants to see the details that will be contained in the B.C. budget on Feb. 20.

"I am encouraged to see our shared values represented in today's Throne Speech," he said in a statement. "The focus on housing and child care and early childhood education represent policies that we have heard are top priorities for British Columbians across the province."

On childcare, the NDP government says its work has just begun.

"Past governments have not helped parents find the child care they need to move their lives forward," the speech says. "While the journey ahead will take time, B.C. is now firmly heading down the path of affordable, quality child care for all."

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B.C. Speech from the Throne highlights:

  • Further action to address demand in the B.C. housing market, specifically by targeting speculation from foreign and domestic buyers. The speech doesn’t say just how the government intends to do that, although the NDP campaign platform last year included a tax on speculators who buy property but don’t earn money in the province.
     
  • New legislation to curb tax fraud, tax evasion and money laundering in B.C.’s real estate market.
     
  • The largest investment in affordable housing in the province’s history, covering social housing, student housing, seniors housing, Indigenous housing and rentals.
     
  • The speech does not mention a campaign promise to provide renters with a $400-a-year subsidy.
     
  • Allowing municipalities to create special zoning categories for rental housing.
     
  • Stronger protections for renters and owners of manufactured homes, including protection for renters facing eviction due to renovation or demolition.
     
  • More student housing at the province’s colleges and universities.
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