Last week the BC NDP government presented its first Throne Speech in 16 years.
It was a bold new vision for British Columbia, placing people at the centre of political decision making after more than a decade of being left behind.
The BC Liberals had other things on their mind.
Earlier in the week, Chilliwack-Hope MLA Laurie Throness released his own list of 65 priorities for the province.
While he’s not running for party leadership, Throness says that he hopes that any future leader of the party considers them. Chances are that you probably heard about Throness’s loftiest idea: building a giant stone sculpture tourist attraction out of a BC mountain.His ideal design would feature a massive pair of open cupped hands, large enough to hold "a couple of dozen" tour buses.
"People would be able to interpret that piece of art according to their own context. One might see it as hands raised in prayer, another might see it as hands uplifted to help the poor, another might see it as hands out stretched in a cry for help." - MLA Throness, speaking to the CBC.
Practicality notwithstanding, Throness’s monument would be ridiculously expensive - even by BC Liberal standards. This is, after all, a party who siphoned $1.2 billion from ICBC to make their unbalanced budgets appear less lopsided, and whose last attempt at a large project - the Port Mann bridge - cost taxpayers at least $150M more than it should have.
Voters made it clear in the last election that they were interested in policies that made their lives better and it’s hard to argue easily how a giant mountain would do that.
That said - the mountain sculpture isn’t Throness’s most shocking idea.
Buried in his 65 point plan are some truly unpleasant suggestions. If other BC Liberals support them — and to date, no one has said they don’t — it says a lot about the type of values they hold, and the type of province they envision British Columbia becoming. Here are the six that made us gasp the loudest:
1. He supports creating a provincial homeless registry - and making it available to the police.
Throness suggests that the government “Take a province-wide approach to homelessness, including re-institutionalization of homeless with severe mental health conditions, and the creation of a province-wide registry for homeless people in order to locate and offer services and housing to them while not duplicating efforts between cities and regions. Make this information available to police.”
The ethics — and legality — of forcibly warehousing the mentally ill notwithstanding, a province-wide registry of homeless people would be extremely expensive and labour-intensive to maintain. As for sharing the list with police? We’ll simply say that many governments have tried criminalizing homelessness before and found it does very little to address the root causes that create the conditions for homelessness in the first place.
2. He doesn’t support harm reduction.
Throness disagrees with years of research supporting the benefits of harm reduction policy in addressing drug and alcohol addiction. Instead, he believes that provincial government should “Legislate the goal of the Ministry of Health, and all provincial health authorities, to ‘cure addictions to drugs and alcohol’ rather than ‘helping addicts live positive lives.’”
He also wants the provincial government to forcibly commit "prolific offenders addicted to drugs or alcohol" to "approved long-term recovery-based residential drug/alcohol treatment programs" under Canada’s federal Mental Health Act. While in recovery, he would like them to be administered "naltrexone to block cravings", and suggests a similar policy be put in place for inmates in provincial jails.
3. He wants to privatize health services - with public financing.
During the provincial election, former MLA Linda Reimer, the BC Liberal candidate for Port Moody-Coquitlam, shared her support for the privatization of BC's health care system. The response was resoundingly negative. Throness clearly wasn’t paying attention.
He suggests that the government "task a commission to examine the best health care systems in the world and make recommendations to emulate the best of the best – with everything on the table." He also suggests that the government pursue opportunities to contract out more health services to private entities at public expense.
It's worth mentioning that pharmaceutical companies are some of the largest donors to the BC Liberal party, donating more than $600,000 to the party between 2005 and 2013.
4. He wants to help two parent families have more kids - but only two parents families.
As a means of addressing what Throness calls "societal aging", Throness proposes creating a policy to supply "stable two-parent families with the assistance they need to have the number of children they would like."
It is unclear why Throness believes that two parent families should receive more help than anyone else in BC who wants to have children. It's also worth mentioning that Premier John Horgan was raised by a single parent, as his father passed away when he was two.
5. He wants the government to teach trans kids to "accept and cherish" their bodies as they are.
Growing up in a body that doesn’t look like the person you are inside is psychologically debilitating for children and youth. Statistics show that LGBTQ youth are 4 times more likely to attempt suicide than their heterosexual peers, and that homeless youth in shelters are more likely to identify as LGBTQ. Providing ways for young people to live as their authentic selves gives them a chance to grow up with dignity.
Throness disagrees. He's previously stated that he believes in a 'fixed gender' at birth and now specifically suggests that the provincial government "teach children to accept and cherish their body shape and biological characteristics just as they are, no matter their gender expression." There’s no further explanation of how that would be legislated or implemented, and quite frankly, we’re not sure we want to hear more.
6. He wants provincial law to enshrine protections for people to discriminate against LGBTQ2 people.
Last year, when the Provincial government officially enshrined gender identity as a protected right in the BC Charter, Laurie Throness abstained to vote. He spoke up in the legislature against the bill, suggesting that granting the right to non-discrimination to transgendered persons was akin to buckling to a special interest.
"When some person or group becomes irresistible to the government, when the government can no longer say no to them, I get uncomfortable with that, because if government ever aligns itself with any partial or private interest rather than the public, someone else's interest is going to suffer." - MLA Throness
So, perhaps it’s not surprising that one of Throness’s other ideas is for the government to "commit to pluralism and tolerance in BC, including the human rights, tolerance and full participation in society of people of good conscience who may disagree with changing sexual mores and concepts of gender."
The BC NDP government, by comparison, is bringing back British Columbia’s Human Rights Commission. At the moment, we are the only province in Canada without one.
It's true that one person's values can't be taken as being representative of a party’s values as a whole.
Unless, of course, that party does and says nothing to disagree with them.