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January 21, 2010

Throne 2010


The legislature will sit for just three days before adjourning for the Olympics. With the exception of a handful of political pundits, it is unlikely that many British Columbians will notice the February 9th Speech from the Throne. Throne Speeches are frequently vague and almost always boring; they are usually received by commentators with the observation that we'll have to wait for the budget to see government's direction. The budget will be tabled on March 2nd, but if it is anything like the so called "budget update" tabled in September, details of thousands of cuts will slowly leak out weeks after the budget when those affected learn details that aren't disclosed with the budget documents. Ministers in the Campbell government have spun the 2009 budget cuts saying they are a choice to preserve health and education; of course, that is nonsense. The choice is whether to rush to a balanced budget or to minimize cuts and move to a balanced budget over two or three more years, with confidence that growth will return to normal levels. Could it be that the BC Liberal government doesn't trust that BC will return to its usual growth of 2.7% or more?

In 2009 we were treated to two Throne Speeches, pre-election on February 16th and post-election on August 25th. The pre-election Speech referenced the government's plan and said: "At the core of that plan is this government's broader vision that aspires to our Five Great Goals." Politics 101 appears to teach political parties that they should always refer to their "Plan" while making sure that no one can understand it. There was no reference to the Five Great Goals in the post-election Speech, although the word plan was used in the context of "the climate action plan", "the BC Energy Plan" and in a bold statement that: "The plan we are pursuing is well underway and will not be derailed." Only the Campbell knows what that plan may be, but in his year end interview with Keith Baldrey the Premier said that it would take him until 2015 to finish work on his Great Goals. Perhaps the plan is all about clinging to power.

The 2010 Throne Speech will make claims about Olympic benefits and the wonderful benefits of a tax shift in the form of the HST. By the time of the 2013 election there might be enough evidence to test the claims of 2010, although it is not clear whether those claims will remain salient or whether issues that cannot be anticipated today will form the ballot question three years hence.