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Today’s speech from the throne details the government’s vision to open up British Columbia to the world, and open up every region and community of the province to a wealth of new opportunities. Highlights include:
A new B.C. Heartlands Economic Strategy
· The new B.C. Heartlands Economic Strategy includes economic development plans to be implemented across the province, incorporating plans for infrastructure, human capital and marketing. The strategy will open up new partnerships with First Nations; new investments in transportation infrastructure; new opportunities for tourism, sport and recreation from a successful Olympics bid; and a revitalized forest industry.
A new partnership with First Nations
Opening up B.C.’s transportation infrastructure
· The government is completing a comprehensive transportation plan to revitalize the province’s transportation infrastructure, to create new economic opportunities.
· The government will open up the North with major improvements to rural roads and new access to gas and oil fields, and complete the Nisga’a Highway.
· An integrated rail network will improve service and ensure public ownership of the BC Rail lines, beds and rights-of-way.
· Infrastructure priorities include improving the Kicking Horse Canyon to open up the Kootenays and the Columbia Valley to the rest of Canada and all of B.C.
· Vancouver Island and coastal B.C. will be opened up with greater choice, more competition and better service through the new BC Ferries Services.
· The government will ensure B.C.’s airports become the regional social and economic engines they should be.
Opening up a revitalized forestry industry
· Legislation this session will create a working forest land base for forest companies, forest workers and communities throughout the heartlands of British Columbia.
Opening up economic opportunities for all
· Legislation will be introduced to open up fair and transparent government procurement practices, modernize the Waste Management Act, improve contaminated sites regulation, streamline and strengthen the Pesticide Control Act, and enhance planning for agriculture and the right to farming.
New measures to renew education, health care and services for people in need
· The Teaching Profession Act will be amended to enhance accountability and administrative efficiency, while clarifying the role of the B.C. College of Teachers.
· A new Fair PharmaCare Plan will be introduced later this month. Some 280,000 low-income families will pay less than they do now, and for the first time, young families with lower incomes will be supported in their drug costs. The vast majority of B.C. families will pay the same as or less than they do today for their prescription drugs.
· A new provincial authority called Community Living BC will oversee the design and delivery of services to people with developmental disabilities.
· Earnings exemptions for those with disabilities will rise again in the next fiscal year.
New measures to open up our democratic institutions
The new Canada-British Columbia partnership
· The province is working in partnership with the federal government on the 2010 Olympic bid, the Vancouver Trade & Convention Centre expansion, the Gulf Islands National Park, the softwood lumber dispute, the pine beetle infestation and cross-border projects.
· The province is pursuing funding to open up Canada’s gateway to British Columbia through the Kicking Horse Canyon on the Trans-Canada Highway, among other transportation priorities.
· Both levels of government are working to harmonize environmental assessment policies and to improve fisheries management.
· This year the province hopes to enter into a multi-year national agriculture policy to improve food safety, quality and environmental sustainability.
· The province is exploring the potential for a new national park in the Okanagan, as well as new marine parks to protect some of B.C.’s most valuable marine ecosystems.
The full text of the speech from the throne is online at www.legis.gov.bc.ca .