Feb 9, 2010

Throne speech rather unimaginative despite talk of leading change


Today’s Throne speech marks a return to the optimistic tone that is typical of the start of each session of the legislature. Sure, there are the obligatory references to financial discipline and balancing the budget, but they come at the very end of the document and are a far cry from last summer’s bare cupboard metaphors. There is not even a mention of the R-word (recession).

Instead, the government seems to be trying to harness as much optimism as possible by frequently invoking the Olympic spirit and all it’s supposed to represent.

However, behind all the talk of “embrac[ing] new solutions for this new century” and “lead[ing] change for our children’s advantage,” there is very little in the government’s stated “new agenda” that is actually new or innovative. The ideas of streamlining environmental assessment, the Pacific Gateway strategy, the push for clean energy development, P3s, the talk of healthcare reform focused on “choice” and “innovation,” the full-day kindergarten for five-year-olds – these have all been introduced in earlier throne speeches.

Perhaps the only new announcement this year is the government’s stated intention to “modernize” the K-12 education system, although we are left wondering what exactly this may entail.

What is missing from the pre-Olympics throne speech is the kind of big, bold ideas that would truly “reach beyond what is imaginable today to what we want for tomorrow.”

Producing clean energy is great, but we need a lot more than that to meet the provincial target of 33% reduction in GHG emissions by 2020, let alone seriously tackle climate change.

Similarly, job creation is an admirable goal, especially at the tail-end of a deep recession, but in a province that has the highest poverty levels in Canada and the greatest inequality between rich and poor, the government needs to go further to ensure that prosperity is shared by all.

If we act with clear vision and concerted effort now, in 2030, people will look back to this decade as we look to the 1960s today.

I certainly approve of our government taking a long-term view and striving to leave a positive legacy. But what exactly do the 1960s represent?

Yes, they were a time of large-scale physical infrastructure development (for hydro energy generation, in particular), but they were also the time when the social infrastructure of this country was being built – when universal public health care and the Canada Pension Plan were introduced. Let’s make sure that the 2010s are similarly remembered as a time when we continued investing in quality public services that moved us closer to a socially, economically and environmentally just BC.