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August 27, 2009

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Opening of the 39th Parliament

The first session of the 39th provincial parliament began on August 25. The morning session saw Bill Barisoff returned to the role of Speaker. Lieutenant-Governor Steven Point addressed the Legislative Assembly in the afternoon session to deliver the Speech from the Throne.

Throne speeches are meant to outline the government’s agenda for the coming year, but are usually void of detail. This Throne Speech provided us with more specifics than we’ve previously seen, although much of it was couched in vague or poetic phrases.

Not surprisingly, a significant portion of the Speech focussed on the economy. The current economic crisis, which seems to have caught this government off guard, was used to justify the introduction of the harmonized sales tax, a public sector wage freeze, reductions in spending and grants, and fiscal reviews of TransLink, Health Authorities, Boards of Education and Crown Corporations.

The government will also continue to pursue “open trade” with Alberta under the TILMA and re-introduce the Labour Mobility Act that failed to pass through the legislature before the provincial election.

Energy policy is also on the government’s agenda, including challenging the independence and decisions of the BC Utilities Commission, pursuing private power production through run-of-river projects, and the development of an energy export policy.

There is a commitment to “full-time, five-year-old kindergarten” beginning in September 2010, but it is not clear that this will happen across the province. “Neighbourhood learning centres” are touted as a focus of early learning and early childhood development, using municipal, recreation and library services.

We can expect further clarification of the government’s agenda in the Budget Speech, being delivered on September 1.

The schedule for the fall session was established on August 27. The Legislature is scheduled to sit until November 26, when it will break until after the Olympics. The 2010 Budget will be introduced on March 2, 2010

Our legislative question for this update is:

How is the Speaker of the Legislature chosen?

Remember: the first correct answer e-mailed to tjarzebiak@cupe.ca wins a prize from the CUPE BC boutique.

Submitted by:

Tania Jarzebiak
Legislative Co-ordinator