Brace yourselves

With just three months left until British Columbians go to the polls, the Campbell administration has announced the province "must brace for a period of recession." And, as a result, the government - in today's throne speech - has promised to reduce "discretionary spending" to "maximize available budget increases to support critical services for patients, students, children and those most vulnerable in our society." Those increases, according to Finance Minister Colin Hansen will also feature a funding boost for children and family services. But recession-bracing wasn't the only major announcement included in the throne speech.

* The government's soaring rhetoric regarding its relationship with the province's First Nations reached new heights with the announcement it would be working with indigenous leaders to "develop a Recognition and Reconciliation Act." The Globe and Mail's Mark Hume first reported on that work in December. But the throne speech establishes a high-minded goal for that legislation: nothing less than the "rebuilding of the historic Indigenous Nations of British Columbia and establishment of political structures for meaningful government-to-government relations."

* Despite seismic and fire safety concerns about five and six storey wood-frame buildings, the government promoted its decision to allow the construction of those structures. This, as part of an initiative to "create a culture of wood that looks to wood first." That initiative will also see the introduction of legislation requiring wood to be used as the "primary building material in all new publicly-owned and provincially-funded buildings." And the government will pushing for a Canadian "wood first" policy and increased wood use in China.

* At times, the throne speech read more like a calendar than an agenda for government action. The Campbell administration announced four major events including: a first ever joint cabinet meeting with Alberta and Saskatchewan; a forum to launch a "new vision for sustainable regional growth," which will include California, Oregon, Washington and Alaska leaders; an Open Skies Summit to "pursue airlines' right to service new routes" to British Columbia and across the province; and a Cross Border Summit to highlight the importance of trade between the United States and Canada.

* The government's controversial plan to electrify Highway 37 is getting a cousin. The Campbell administration has announced "the goal of a Northeast Transmission Line" will be pursued.

* The government won't be increasing the minimum wage - an increase the Campbell administration says would "mean more job losses," "depress job creation" and "hurt those it purports to help." That's consistent what the Coalition of B.C. Businesses and the Independent Contractors and Businesses Association have been saying in their Vote BC Jobs and Vote Smart BC pre-election advertising campaigns.

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