At the opening of this year’s Parliament in Victoria, the throne speech outlined numerous goals to make this a “golden decade”. The goals can be divided into five categories; education and literacy, health and physical fitness, social support systems, sustainable environmental management, and job creation. Unlike the past few throne speeches, this one makes no mention of offshore oil development, even in the job creation category.
For education and literacy, the Campbell government is promising (among other things) extra new funding for school libraries, textbooks, arts and music programs, and services for special needs students. They have set a goal of eliminating junk food in schools within the next four years, and extending the ‘Action Schools’ program to promote fitness among K-9 kids. $1.5-billion will go toward completing the seismic upgrades within the next 15 years. In the post-secondary category, the province is committed to adding 25,000 new spaces by 2010, and restricting tuition increases to the rate of inflation.
Under healthy living and fitness, $1.5-billion for health care is being promised for the next three years, including new initiatives for preventive health and fitness programs. Money will also go to cancer research and genome mapping, and the expansion of the Disease Control Centre.
After being criticized for cutting services for those who need them most, the government is stepping up the effort to provide social services for seniors and physically and mentally disabled people. In addition, they promise funding for women’s services, 215 new police officers, and childcare programs. A Task Force on Homelessness will develop new strategies to tackle homelessness, drug addictions, and mental illness.
There are also several new initiatives in environmental management: the province has set a goal for preserving the Burns Bog and Codd Wetlands, and establishing a conservation trust fund of $6.5-million for acquiring new parklands. $9-million will go to creating a BC Conservation Corps of students and graduates to work in parks and wildernesses, and more funding will go toward new positions for park rangers and conservation officers. A new task force, reporting directly to cabinet, will work to promote alternative energy sources such as wind, tidal, solar, and run-of-the-river power projects.
Job creation is the final priority – many goals relate to promoting trade and relations with Asia, encouraging Chinese tourism, supporting ESL programs, and improving cruise ship facilities and ports along the coast. A new university with a focus on world trade will be opening in Chilliwack. A new council will take a look at issues affecting growth in every sector, pinpointing barriers and identifying possible solutions.
The full text of the speech is available on the Legislative Assembly website: http://www.legis.gov.bc.ca/37th6th/4-8-37-6.htm
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