By Carole James

Both the Throne Speech opening the fall sitting of the Legislature and the Premier's jobs plan show a government that seems to be incapable of delivering substantial measures to alleviate the real challenges facing the citizens of Victoria-Beacon Hill. The Premier promised a jobs plan that would be "different from anything British Columbia has seen," but when she unveiled it in September, it was disappointing to see that it wasn't different at all.

We've seen most of this before. This plan puts self-promotion ahead of substance and is mostly an exercise in repackaging existing plans and programs. Sadly, there's not much for Victoria-Beacon Hill, or even for communities on Vancouver Island. It's almost like we don't even exist.

An effective jobs strategy should begin by investing in our province's greatest resource - our people. One of its first priorities should be ensuring British Columbians have access to post-secondary education, skills training, and apprenticeships.

Instead, the government has dismantled trades and apprenticeship training, frozen funding, dramatically increased tuition, and cut needs-based grant support for students.

This jobs plan should have addressed the outrageous interest on student loans, and should have included investments in student grant programs, as a start.
This plan committed precisely zero dollars to Greater Victoria's arts and culture, tourism, and construction sectors, and little for local businesses - all feeling the impacts of the HST. There is nothing to encourage more environmentally-friendly initiatives, or create jobs from the green economy. Nothing to encourage local purchasing which would create growth and jobs right here at home.

This government fails to understand that a jobs plan will only do the job if it invests and prepares the province for the green jobs of the future. Some of the revenue from B.C.'s carbon tax could have been allocated for green infrastructure and green jobs. It just makes sense.

There's no new money to help our K-to-12 school system and strengthen public education, a critical component of a strong economy. Parents can only work if they have child care. Yet there's nothing in the jobs plan that addresses the lack of quality, affordable, and accessible child care for families.

The plan lacks clear job targets, and fails to provide vital investments in people. Instead it offers a bunch of boards, councils and panels, and many of them are just new names for bodies that already existed.

The Throne Speech offered up more slogans and photo ops rather thanserious policy proposals. The use of the words "families first" rang hollow when the speech contained nothing to address child poverty, adults with developmental disabilities, more care for seniors and the pressures families are facing today such as higher ferry fares, MSP premiums - and the list goes on.

While the HST has been defeated, we're still paying it, and we will be for months and months to come. The Throne Speech also failed to address the need to speed up a return to the PST/GST system. The new home construction industry is hit particularly hard with the uncertainty created by the HST mess, yet the speech had nothing to offer for a quick and smooth transition.

Instead, the government says it will take until early 2013 for the HST to be gone. That's not nearly fast enough, and government needs to do better.
These are tense and confusing times both at home and around the globe. It's time for pragmatic, common sense government to get us through. By that measure, both the Throne Speech and the jobs plan fall far short of the goal.

The Premier needs to show that she is prepared to govern on behalf of all British Columbians, and help those facing unemployment, widening inequality and a lack of good opportunities. Hope needs more than slogans; it demands real action and real commitment.