Gordon Campbell highlights HST in throne speech
The BC Liberals say the harmonized sales tax that has fuelled public anger and pitted business interests against each other will help fight the worst recession in 27 years.
In its throne speech to open the first legislative session since the May election, the B.C. government refused to back down despite the controversy.
"The government is committed to work to make British Columbia more competitive, reduce barriers to the economy and protect core public services," said the throne speech read by Lieut.-Gov. Steven Point.
"A harmonized sales tax fits all three of those broad objectives."
Related: Read the entire throne speech here
Point said the government plans to use $1.6 billion in federal HST transition funding to protect health and education services.
The cash-strapped B.C. government will also review its health authorities, boards of education and Crown corporations in an effort to find some cost savings.
"Where service-delivery mechanisms can be improved at a lower administrative cost, they should be," said Point.
"Where Crown agencies or functions delivered by them can be more cost-effectively administered directly by line ministries, they will be."
Point said the government has no money to fund wage increases for public sector workers, but plans no wage rollbacks.
"Rising public sector wage and benefit costs only put more pressure on government to find savings through layoffs and other workforce reductions," he said.
"As long as we are mired in deficits, there is simply no money available for public sector wage increases."
The post election period has been anything but a honeymoon for the Liberals, who are facing a ballooning budget deficit, a struggling economy and rising anger over the proposed HST.
The throne speech also said the government will introduce a one-time Olympic legislative amendment to adjourn the legislature for the February period during the Games and delaying the new B.C. budget to March 2, 2010.