BC Speech from the Throne, and Reactions


The Honourable Steven L. Point, OBC Lieutenant-Governor at the Opening of the First Session, Thirty-Ninth Parliament of the Province of British Columbia, August 25, 2009

… Government will place early learning and early-childhood development at the forefront of efforts to improve our education services.

Neighbourhood learning centres will become the focus of intensive activities with city councils, library boards, recreation commissions, parents and professionals. Government will work to establish educational and preschool opportunities in the midst of the neighbourhoods where our families live. Together, we can work to centre neighbourhoods and communities on the needs of our families, their children’s education and the environment.

Full-time, five-year-old kindergarten will begin to be delivered in schools throughout British Columbia in September of 2010…..

Read the whole speech


REACTION to the BC Throne Speech

Throne speech signals continued instability for the public sector
Aug 26 ’09

The B.C. Government and Service Employees’ Union says yesterday’s throne speech does little to ease British Columbians’ concerns about the future of the province’s vital public services.

“This throne speech signals widespread cuts that are irresponsible in our current economic situation,” says BCGEU President Darryl Walker.

References to cuts in the throne speech were vague, but signaled an uncertain future for health care, community social services, and other public services in British Columbia.

“The cuts that have been made so far have affected the most vulnerable,” says Walker, referring to the recent cuts to legal aid, libraries, literacy programs, student aid, housing, seniors’ services, and mental health and addictions services.

“It seems like the opposite of what British Columbians need right now.”

The BCGEU is critical of the government’s lack of proper planning to avoid the rash of cutbacks that will serve to deepen the effects of the recession.

“Just a few months ago the government was saying that everything was fine and now we are looking at deeper cuts and larger deficits,” says Walker.

“Communities rely on public services and public sector employment to stay alive,” says Walker. “If the government follows through on plans from earlier this year to cut up to 5% of the public service, we will see a huge impact on local economies that are already suffering. It could mean as many as 1,500 jobs cut, and over $200 million in lost economic activity in communities around BC.”

In terms of the public sector wage freeze, Walker states, “The government offers contradictory messages when talking about the public service. They re-announce a wage freeze but then talk about rejuvenation of the public service.”

“They are well aware of the issues we face in recruitment and retention in the public sector, and wages and other ways to solve these issues are something that we will be discussing at the bargaining table next year.”


Spending cuts would kill thousands jobs and deepen recession
Report calculates economic and social impacts of limiting deficit during recession

Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives
Aug 27, 2009

(VANCOUVER) In the wake of Tuesday’s Throne Speech signaling major cuts in public spending, a new report from the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA) cautions that cuts will only make the recession worse.

CCPA’s modeling shows the status quo (or underlying) deficit for the current year will likely be between $3.2 and $3.9 billion. If the provincial government cuts between $1 billion and $2 billion in public spending to reduce the size of that deficit, it will further depress GDP by 0.9% to 1.8%, kill 18,000 to 35,000 jobs, and increase the unemployment rate by up to 1.5%.

That spells a deeper and longer recession, according to Iglika Ivanova, economist and author of September BC Budget Reality Check: Facing the Full Force of the Recession. “These deficits are cyclical. They are a direct result of the recession and do not threaten the long-term health of provincial finances. On the other hand, cutting spending during a serious recession will actually harm the economy.”

“The vast majority of policy makers in Canada now recognize the vital role of governments in stimulating the economy to protect jobs and incomes during a recession,” says Ivanova. “Yet despite having abandoned its balanced budget legislation earlier this year, BC’s government seems determined to run as small a deficit as possible — even if it has to cut key public programs and services to do so.”

“Spending cuts will make it harder for low and middle income British Columbians to weather the recession. BC already has the highest child poverty rate in the country. We cannot afford to push more people into hardship,” says Ivanova. “Middle class families already take home lower incomes than their parents’ generation, and most entered the recession with record-high debt. Reducing access to services like child care or public libraries will only shift costs onto individual families.”

The report recommends that the provincial government accept recession-driven deficits and protect vital public services, and fully fund the budget shortfalls of health authorities and school boards. It recommends additional stimulus spending to cushion the impact of the recession, to be invested in social and green infrastructure and poverty reduction measures.

More info


Grassroots Women says B.C. government needs to adequately address the childcare crisis
Grassroots Women BC
August 26, 2009

Vancouver, B.C. – The B.C. government’s announcement on Tuesday for funding full-day kindergarten in September 2010 does little for working-class moms and kids preparing to go back to school in a matter of weeks.

“B.C. is not only lagging behind other provinces, they are also not dealing with the entire problem,” states Monica Urrutia, Chair of Grassroots Women.

Grassroots Women has been raising awareness on the actual state of the childcare crisis and its impact on working-class women and their children. Nothing is being done to address the needs of many families regarding pre-school aged children and for school-aged children before and after school hours.

“As a single mom I’m constantly juggling my part-time job with childcare needs for my two children,” shares Hetty Alcuitas, member of Grassroots Women. “My son is starting kindergarten this fall and full-day kindergarten would have helped a bit, but it would not resolve my problem of what to do with my children before and after school when I’m supposed to be at work.” she says.

B.C. has the worst record of child poverty in Canada and women cannot address their poverty without a comprehensive childcare solution.  Grassroots Women has been calling for universal childcare as a woman’s right for years, and last month held a press conference calling on the Minister and her Opposition Critic to clearly state what both political parties are doing to address the childcare crisis now.

“We also fear that this upcoming budget announcement will deepen the poverty working-class women and children live with everyday. Cuts to health and education will immediately impact the services these families receive, and it is often these very women who then end up bearing the burden and filling the gap, when they are already dealing with the onslaught of the current financial crisis,” adds Urrutia.

Grassroots Women continues to call on the government to seriously address the childcare crisis and end the planned cuts to needed social services.


Throne speech signals uncertainty for health care
Hospital Employees’ Union
August 25, 2009

The Hospital Employees’ Union says today’s throne speech offers little comfort to B.C. families and communities who need to know that quality and accessible health care will be available even in tough economic times.

The government’s promise to protect health care has already been badly compromised by its direction to health authorities to make more than $300 million in spending cuts to critical services, including seniors’ care, community health programs, surgeries and diagnostic procedures.

“British Columbians are looking to government to ensure that health care and other vital public services are protected, especially when their own economic security is at risk,” says HEU secretary-business manager Judy Darcy.

“But government’s actions so far this summer and the message in today’s throne speech provide little reassurance to families and communities.”

Darcy says a planned review of health authority spending and operations will fail if its chief objective is to pave the way for further cuts.

“Our health care system is already stretched to capacity. Further cuts to front-line services and staff would be a costly mistake,” says Darcy.

“A rushed review to meet budget pressures is doomed to fail patients and cost taxpayers more in the long run. Careful planning and consultation with front-line staff is key to finding better ways to deliver services to the public.”

In response to the government’s re-announcement of a public-sector wage freeze, HEU says that the province’s fiscal situation must be balanced against the reality of ongoing retention and recruitment issues.

For many health professionals represented by HEU, like Licensed Practical Nurses, wages are no longer competitive with those in neighbouring provinces and do not reflect increased training requirements and expanded responsibilities.

“Government has acknowledged that we need to rejuvenate the ranks in health care and other parts of the public sector in the face of an aging workforce,” says Darcy.

“Our union is committed to working with government at the bargaining table and in other venues to make sure that British Columbians continue to have access to skilled and experienced health care workers in the future.”