North Shore MLAs head back to the legislature Friday for the first throne speech and budget under the new NDP government.
“The message is that help is on the way,” said North Vancouver-Lonsdale NDP MLA Bowinn Ma. But Ma cautioned with only half of the fiscal year left and multiple election promises to keep, this throne speech and budget “will be an incremental step to meet our commitments.”
“We made a lot of commitments in the campaign,” she said.
And while the government still intends to keep those promises, there will be some actions that won’t be included in this first throne speech or budget, she warned, adding those can be expected to be introduced in the spring.
“We are moving as quickly as we can,” she said. “It’s only been seven weeks since the NDP has formed a government.”
“I think we’re going to be able to address a lot of good things.”
Ma pointed to recent decisions to increase welfare and disability rates, fund adult basic education and English language learning and seek intervenor status in the Kinder Morgan pipeline court challenges as recent accomplishments.
Ma, named parliamentary secretary on TransLink, said transportation is very much top of mind for her North Shore constituents – both in terms of funding for public transit and taking steps to ease traffic congestion. Ma said she’s been busy speaking with ministry officials about the North Shore’s transportation challenges and getting good feedback from the public on recent bus expansion.
Ma added she’s confident the new government will be able to move faster on approving capital projects still waiting for approval from Victoria. “Public education investments have always been a priority for the BC NDP,” she said. “I’m optimistic we will see funding for (local projects) soon than we would have.”
Jane Thornthwaite, Liberal MLA for North Vancouver- Seymour, will be sitting in opposition for the first time. Thornthwaite said her job will be to continue to advocate for her constituents while holding the government to account.
On that score, “the big one is to make sure the new government continues and completes the new (highway) interchanges,” said Thornthwaite, who also pointed to traffic and transportation as key concerns. Thornthwaite said she’d also like to see the idea of rapid transit explored for the North Shore, possibly coming over the Second Narrows bridge and along the North Shore corridor. “Obviously that’s super long-term,” she said, adding, “It’s the way we’re going to get North Shore people out of their cars, is to get more rapid transit.”
Both housing and transportation are key – and connected – issues for locals, she said. “If people can’t live here they for sure have to be able to get back and forth to work.”
Thornthwaite said she’s heard from businesses ranging from small operations to major corporations that finding workers will be increasingly difficult unless solutions are found to housing and transit issues.