A throne speech sounds a little bit different in an election year.
This week’s throne speech and next week’s budget are noteworthy milestones along the way as British Columbia draws closer to its spring election campaign. Lt.-Gov. Judith Guichon delivered the throne speech Tuesday on behalf of Premier Christy Clark’s Liberal government, setting the tone for this session of the legislature that will lead us toward a May 9 vote.
There is only so much the legislature will be to accomplish between now and then, when a newly elected government will have a fresh mandate with which to lead. So this year’s budget won’t exactly be a projection of the year ahead. It’s more an affirmation of one party’s priorities, and we’ll keep in mind that the Liberals aren’t only governing; they’re also campaigning. The same will be true of the NDP’s certain criticisms of the coming budget – they’re fulfilling their duty as B.C.’s official opposition, but they’re in all-out campaign mode, too.
Because of this, British Columbians might not put a lot of stock in the throne speech and budget, but we should. There are a lot of words that get thrown around in an election campaign, but a budget, at least, represents action, and it’s among the best metrics we will have when we make up our minds about how we plan to fill out our ballots.
On our province’s political spectrum – which also includes the B.C. Conservatives and the B.C. Greens – there will be some subtle and not-so-subtle distinctions in the policies and promises we’re hearing. Next week’s budget – balanced, presumably – and opposition reaction, will attempt to sharpen the contrast between the various parties on tax policy, health-care priorities, energy, education, social programs, climate action and more.
We, as voters, will be presented with a budget, we will hear it praised and panned, and then we will play a part in determining how much of it ever comes to pass.