That’s how Cariboo-Chilcotin MLA Donna Barnett reacted to Tuesday’s speech from the throne.
“This throne speech is a big disappointment for rural B.C. and to the province as a whole,” she told the Tribune.
“There wasn’t anything in it that wasn’t in the speech a year ago. The only different is in essence the monitoring of cell phone operating costs, which of course only the CRTC has any jurisdiction over rates. We in rural B.C. keep fighting to get cell phones never mind worry about the operating costs.”
The continued lack of a bus service in the region since Greyhound shut down wasn’t addressed in the speech, she said, noting she’s written several letters to the Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure and the Passenger Transportation Board about the issue.
“I know of a private very reliable company that would gladly provide the service but they can’t do anything as long as the license is tied up,” Barnett said. “Nothing has been done to promote a bus service for this region. There was nothing for forestry, except money for fire mitigation, but that was there last year.”
BC Assembly of First Nations Regional Chief Terry Teegee, however, welcomed what he described as the NDP government’s progressive actions identified in the throne speech reflecting “years of hard work and commitment by First Nations leaders and members of the government toward advancing reconciliation and the economic and shared decision-making components of First Nations rights and title.”
Joe Alphonse, Tl’etinqox Chief and Tsilhqot’in National Government (TNG) Tribal Chair, said the government is still on a “huge learning curve.”
“I do believe there has been a lot more dialogue with the NDP than we’ve had with Liberal government,” Alphonse said. “We are always going to say we need more, but you have to acknowledge that this NDP government is definitely been working with us as Tsilhqot’in and we feel we have a good relationship.”
Alphonse said the TNG met with the Premier and four ministers the first week of February.
“We cannot complain. Our title case is mentioned in the mandate letters for every ministry.”
Barnett also criticized the lack of relief in sight for the “19 new taxes,” facing B.C. such as the health care tax and the carbon tax which she is increasingly hearing complaints about from constituents.
“They are starting to look at their natural gas bill and seeing the cost of carbon tax is greater than the gas they are getting.”
Fortis BC communications advisor Diana Sorache confirmed the carbon tax rate is presently $1.70 per gigajoule and has been since April 2018, while the present cost of gas is at the commodity rate of $1.54 per gigajoule for the Interior and the North, although it’s a few cents cheaper in Fort Nelson because they are closer to the source.
“Revelstoke is serviced by propane and their cost is $10.62,” Sorache added.
The carbon tax is set by the provincial government and collected by Fortis BC for submission to the government and the commodity rate is set by the BC Utilities Commission, she said.
Average natural gas monthly consumption in Revelstoke is four gigajoules per month, in Williams Lake and the Lower Mainland it is about eight gigajoules and ten gigajoules in Fort Nelson.
Skeptical the poverty reduction plan alluded to in the throne speech will be effective, Barnett said the one way out of poverty is to create new jobs and opportunities.
“There is nothing in the throne speech about opportunities and jobs. We are losing Mount Polley Mine, we have mills doing cutback because of the cost of lumber and the cost of doing business. I have heard from so many businesses and organizations that have no idea they are going to come up with the money to take care of the health care tax.”
Williams Lake’s Anne Burrill who works on poverty initiatives as a consultant said the throne speech had some great signals that the government is looking to make life more affordable for people.
“We will know more once we get the budget next week, which is when they have promised to rollout the provincial Poverty Reduction Strategy, and hopefully there will be investments in tangible changes for those on low incomes in addition to the middle-class focused initiatives referred to in the throne speech,” Burrill said.
Reporting from Victoria Tuesday, Black Press reporter Tom Fletcher said Premier John Horgan set the agenda for his government’s spring session with a throne speech back with promises to hold down ferry and electricity costs, while promising legislation to regulate event ticket sales and payday lenders.