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B.C. Premier Christy Clark, left, and Lieutenant Governor Judith Guichon appear on the steps of the provincial legislature before the Speech from the Throne.

The B.C. Liberal government's latest Throne Speech, along with next week's budget, will set the tone for the spring campaign

Like the provincial budget next week, the Throne Speech read Tuesday by Lieutenant-Governor Judith Guichon offers a look at likely themes B.C.'s governing Liberals plan to target during the spring election campaign. Premier Christy Clark will be seeking a fifth consecutive term for her party.

Gary Mason: What the Throne Speech doesn't tell you about B.C.

Read more: B.C. appoints Washington envoy for softwood lumber talks

Here's a look at some of the major issues in the speech:

Time to give back

The speech's overarching theme is that it's time to repay British Columbians for their sacrifices during difficult times. The province's economy is strong, the speech says, which means the government can spread the wealth to taxpayers. Next week's budget – which will only pass if the Liberals win re-election in May – will be balanced for the fifth year in a row, and the B.C. economy is among the country's strongest.

However, there is no hint in the speech of just what that payback might look like. Possibilities include a cut to the provincial sales tax, or a change to (or even elimination of) provincial health-care premiums. Neither would be cheap.

The government may also consider tinkering with income tax, BC Hydro electricity rates or lowering premiums at the Crown-owned Insurance Corp. of B.C.


A real estate sold sign is shown outside a house in Vancouver. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

Housing affordability in the Vancouver region, where house prices have skyrocketed by more than 40 per cent and where detached houses now fetch well over a million dollars, has been one of the most talked-about issues this past year, and it's likely to factor heavily into the spring campaign.

The government has introduced a series of policies designed to cool the housing market and make it easier for people to graduate from renting to owning. They include a tax on foreign buyers in the Lower Mainland and a new loan program to help first-time buyers with their down payments. The Liberals will argue its policies are working – the Vancouver-area housing market has been showing signs of softening for months.


The Supreme Court of Canada ruled against the B.C. government last year in a case involving its teachers that could end up costing hundreds of millions of dollars.

The B.C. Teachers' Federation successfully challenged legislation in 2002 that removed language related to class size and composition from teachers collective agreements.

The province and the union announced a $50-million agreement last month that will support the hiring of as many as 1,100 teachers. But that's only an interim arrangement until a permanent – and far more costly – response to the court ruling can be ironed out. The Throne Speech acknowledged the court loss, which will also loom large over next week's budget and the election campaign.

Overdose crisis

A drug user injects in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside.

As an overdose crisis fuelled by powerful opioids such as fentanyl spreads across the country, British Columbia continues to be hardest hit. More than 900 people died of overdoses in the province last year, and that pace appears to be getting worse.

British Columbia declared a public-health emergency last year and has been implementing measures to respond to the crisis, including expanding the availability of naloxone, which can reverse the effects of an opioid overdose; setting up spaces where drugs users can inject; pushing for more formal supervised-injection sites; and continuing an earlier plan to increase addiction-treatment beds. However, the government's critics, including Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson, say the province is still not doing enough.

The Speech says the government is ready to do more, though it does not offer any specifics.

Softwood lumber

The province's forestry industry, which has been struggling in recent years, is bracing for a potential trade war with the United States over softwood lumber. The 2006 Canada-U.S. softwood-lumber deal has expired, and a one-year agreement that has kept the dispute at a standstill expired last October.

Looking ahead at what are expected to be contentious negotiations with the new administration of U.S. President Donald Trump, the B.C. government announced the appointment Tuesday of an envoy to Washington to represent the province's interests. David Emerson is a former federal cabinet minister and former chief executive of Canfor, one of the province's largest lumber exporters. He played a key role in securing the 2006 agreement.

What's missing: Campaign finance reform

B.C. Premier Christy Clark is photographed in her office at the Provincial Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Dec. 16, 2016.

The issue of political fundraising was notably absent from the Throne Speech. Premier Christy Clark has been under fire over the past year for holding private cash-for-access fundraisers, as well as for collecting a $50,000 yearly stipend from her party, which prompted allegations it put her in a conflict of interest. Those controversies amplified calls for legislation to ban corporate and union donations, as well as to place limits on the size of donations. A story in The New York Times recently described the province as the "Wild West" of political finance in Canada.

Ms. Clark announced last month that she would no longer collect the stipend but would instead claim expenses for party business. However, she has resisted calls to do more to limit the influence of money in politics, and the government had nothing to offer on the subject in its Throne Speech.