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Posted: February 17, 2020

Throne Speech short on details

By Tom Shypitka

The Throne Speech on opening day of the fifth session of the 41st Parliament was long on rhetoric, less than spectacular and regurgitated prior commitments and initiatives.

In my opinion, rural B.C. was provided a lot of lip service by making statements such as “fixing the housing market,” while at the same time we are seeing an increase in homelessness and seeing certain housing and transitional care projects halted due to political optics.

Statements such as “improving health care closer to home” when we in the East Kootenay are being denied access to Alberta and the government insists we travel to Kelowna, Vancouver or Victoria.

Statements that “families are saving more money” when all reports suggest just the opposite and especially when we look at 6,000 working families dependent on forestry in rural B.C. that have been involved in the longest labour dispute in our province’s history. Some of these folks have lost their homes and are filing for bankruptcy.

There were statements that B.C. is investing in more police support to keep people safe when we are seeing illegal protests and blockades endangering people’s lives and well-being. There was also a statement proclaiming a lot more daycare spaces were being created, and yet staff shortages in our area are resulting in the closure of existing facilities.

For the fourth Throne Speech in a row for this NDP government, there was nothing on funding for proper wildlife management and biodiversity. This cuts right to the bone for rural B.C. It’s unacceptable and I will be making this very well known when I address the House later this week.

In my role as Energy and Mines critic, it was another slap to the face of industry. Mining got barely a mention but what was said was that we must “create conditions to thrive.” Once again, I know from listening to industry that it is concerned that multiple layers of new regulation currently under development will further impact B.C.’s competitive position.

I have seen permits go from 120 days to eight months or more. This brings uncertainty to projects and shrivels up investment. There was no mention of improving capacity to some First Nations that sometimes struggle with the process in order to give definite concerns on projects through thoughtful consultation. We all need to be on the same page in order to bring opportunity to us all.

Overall, the theme of the speech was on affordability, homelessness, childcare and healthcare. This is something everyone can agree with and we must put this front and centre as a society. The reality is we can pay for it one of two ways. One is to tax our way to prosperity for all taxpayers and further burden our industry with bureaucracy, regulation and fiscal policy, which we are doing now, or develop our industries in an environmentally sustainable way that brings opportunity in partnership with indigenous and non-indigenous communities alike.

I will continue to work hard and prioritize concerns in the Kootenay East riding. Homelessness, senior care and assisted living, education and trying to bring forward funding for a new Cranbrook high school, access to healthcare, proper wildlife management, more resources to human support services, daycare and the list is endless.

Thank you once again for your support and if there is ever a question or concern my excellent staff or myself are always available. Please email requests and appointments to [email protected]

– Tom Shypitka is Kootenay East MLA

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