Georgia Straight: NDP's George Heyman says throne speech didn't address ICBC and B.C. Hydro hikes or higher medical premiums

Posted February 18, 2015

The NDP MLA for Vancouver-Fairview has condemned the B.C. Liberal government's speech from the throne for being "out of touch" struggles that families in his constituency encounter on a daily basis.
George Heyman told the Georgia Straight by phone that the speech—which outlines government priorities in the spring session of the legislature—failed to address rising medical-services-plan premiums, traffic congestion on Broadway, and rate hikes from B.C. Hydro and ICBC.
"All of this is taking place while the only solution offered by the premier is a $230-million tax cut for B.C.'s wealthiest two percent," Heyman declared. "What I would like to see in the throne speech is some attempt to tackle the real issues facing working families. That's rising fees, failure to invest in transit, and not enough support for a diversified economy."
Heyman is the NDP critic for the TransLink, the green economy, and technology.
He pointed out that B.C.'s technology sector is bigger than all of the province's resource industries put together. According to the speech from the throne, the tech sector generates $23 billion in revenue, which is up $10 billion from over a decade ago.
"But we're not growing it as fast as other provinces in Canada or as many of the states to the south because we're not investing enough in education," Heyman added. "We're not producing enough graduates. We're not supporting start-up companies to the degree other provinces do, and therefore helping to draw private investment. Those are the kinds of concrete actions that we should be seeing from our government instead of saying what a great job they're doing when, in fact, they're doing less than other jurisdictions that are surpassing us."
Heyman also said he was surprised to hear no comment in the throne speech about the clawback of family-maintenance payments from parents receiving social assistance. Finance Minister Mike de Jong has already indicated to reporters that the government plans to abandon this policy, which collects about $14 million a year from single parents with extremely low incomes.
The Gordon Campbell government introduced the clawback more than a decade ago as part of draconian cuts to welfare. The NDP's critic for social development, Michelle Mungall, has focused a great deal of attention on this issue, as has the citizens' group B.C. Acorn and the B.C. office of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives.
"Overturning this clawback is long overdue," Heyman said. "We spent a considerable amount of time as opposition talking about the impact on families....The government is finally bowing to public pressure on a move that frankly, generated very little income for them and was grossly unfair to those who were impacted, particularly children."
The Vancouver-Fairview MLA accused the B.C. Liberals of having an "ideological belief" that if taxes are lowered on the wealthiest residents, this will somehow spur economic growth that will trickle down and benefit the rest of the society
"There is no evdence to support this over the last 12 years," he insisted. "There is, however, a growing income gap between the richest British Columbians and everyone else."
Article by Charlie Smith for Georgia Straight