20 Feb 2020 Reflections on British Columbia’s Throne Speech and Budget
Photo Credit: The Canadian Press/Chad Hipolito
British Columbia’s political culture doesn’t align with the stereotypes that many in the country have about this province. Many Canadians see us as left-leaning, granola-crunching hippies, yet the province has been governed by center-right parties for much of the past 70 years. The province is the least religious province in Canada, yet its MLAs are given the most freedom to lead the legislature in prayer. The province lacks a major socially conservative party yet has been more receptive and generous towards independent Christian schools than many other provinces. Local health authorities insist that private hospices must provide assisted suicide yet are (so far) unwilling to force hospices to do so if they refuse.
After the Speech from the Throne last week, we have another seeming paradox: although governed by the most left-leaning government in Canada (an NDP minority government supported by two Green MLAs and an independent MLA), the provincial government has largely left untouched the controversial social issues that their federal counterparts champion.
Jagmeet Singh, the leader of the federal NDP, loudly proclaimed that he would not support the federal throne speech unless the federal government promised to fund New Brunswick’s only abortion clinic. The BC NDP, on the other hand, did not even bring a proposed, non-binding motion supporting Canada’s lack of a law on abortion to a vote in the last legislative session. And though the federal government, other provinces, and even municipalities are considering or have enacted bans on conversion therapy, the government of British Columbia let a private member’s bill banning conversion therapy die on the order paper.
The provincial throne speech and budget made no mention of abortion, assisted suicide, or conversion therapy. Only a single sentence mentioned SOGI, which regrettably reinforced the government’s support of SOGI programs in schools. The only reference to independent schools was to say that they would receive an additional $36 million in funding as a part of a larger investment in primary and secondary education.
The lack of attention to these important topics is both a blessing and a curse for Reformed Christians. It is a blessing that the current government is not devoting itself to imposing conversion therapy bans or gay-straight alliance clubs or to aggressively promoting assisted suicide. We can give thanks to God for restraining the provincial government on these fronts.
But provincial inactivity on these files is also a curse because it normalizes the increasingly secular status quo. The longer the status quo exists, the harder it is for Christians to effect change. Every passing year, support for the LGBTQ pride and forced acceptance grows, governments think that restriction-free abortion is acceptable, and SOGI becomes more entrenched in our education system.
We must never rest behind the defense that our churches, Christians schools, and families are safe from policies that infect our public institutions because of our Charter-protected religious freedom. If we do not live out our faith in the public square, then we should not expect that we will long be able to live out our faith in our private churches, schools, and families either. We should also be concerned about how these harmful policies affect our neighbours, not just us.
The controversy around Delta Hospice exemplifies this. Fraser Health has stated that religiously-based hospices do not have to provide assisted suicide, but that other private, non-denominational hospices must assist their patients to commit suicide. If hospices are not allowed to object to assisted suicide on the grounds of freedom of belief or freedom of conscience, then we should not expect that hospices that refuse to provide assisted suicide based on freedom of religion will be tolerated for much longer either.
So, roll up your sleeves. Even though British Columbia’s recent throne speech and budget were not as bad as we may have feared, we have work to do. We must constantly work to raise matters of life and death, of gender and sexuality, of freedom and religion, and of the common good into the public discourse. We must elect MLAs who unashamedly look to Scripture, not just their party’s policy manual, for guidance. “And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up” (Galatians 6:9).
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