In Throne Speech, Tories vow to help consumers

The Throne Speech delivered last week by Gov.-Gen. David Johnston pledged various regulatory changes intended to benefit consumers.

Along with big-ticket items including resource development and a multi-billion-dollar national infrastructure program, the Throne Speech delivered last week by Gov.-Gen. David Johnston pledged various regulatory changes intended to benefit consumers.

For instance, competition in the telecommunications industry has reduced phone billings by about 20 per cent, says North Island MP John Duncan.

“The average Canadian might not have noticed,” he said Friday in an interview. “We’re going to increase the ability for more competition, and we’re going to regulate roaming charges.”

The Harper Government will also “unbundle cable television” and continue spending on enhanced broadband access, which Duncan said is still an issue in some parts of the Comox Valley.

The Throne Speech referenced the Canada-Europe Trade Agreement, on which government is close to finishing negotiations. Once the agreement is ratified, Duncan said 95 per cent of agricultural tariffs will go to zero.

“That could open up significant markets for our producers. We have people like (Courtenay company) Natural Pastures with high-end, high-value-added cheese products.”

Government is also looking at expanding markets for fish farm and forest products.

“All of that would have an impact to some degree on the Comox Valley,” Duncan said.

The “real biggie” in the speech is the $70-billion Canada-Infrastructure program, which Duncan expects will greatly benefit provincial and municipal governments over the next 10 years.

“It involves federal cost sharing, everything from the ALRT line in Vancouver to the sewer line on Arden Road.”

In terms of treaty negotiations, the Throne Speech made reference to high-level groups set up between the Assembly of First Nations, the prime minister’s office and ministerial offices that will continue and hopefully help the process of negotiation and implementation.

The Tories also pledged an effort to ensure oil reaches foreign markets via the B.C. coast while introducing higher safety standards for pipeline operators and companies operating offshore.

Enbridge and Kinder Morgan both have highly controversial proposals up in the air. The former wants to build a new pipeline to Kitimat and the latter hopes to twin its pipeline to Burnaby.

“There was significant discussion about responsible resource development and environmental protection, including oil spill response and shipping regulations,” Duncan said. “We recognize that along with increased marine traffic comes the need for increased oil spill response.

“A lot of that will fall not on the taxpayer but on the proponents — the industry itself. They’re building that into their cost projections, but the government has a strong role to play in regulating all of that.

“And we know from the Norwegians and others that you have to have world-class oil spill response in place. We don’t want any situations like we saw in the Gulf (of Mexico).”

reporter@comoxvalleyrecord.com