Premier John Horgan and Carole James, Minister of Finance, have released an $8.25 billion economic recovery plan as the province deals with the ramifications of COVID-19.
“As British Columbians, we’ve been through a lot recently. We know our recovery won’t happen overnight, but by focusing on people and taking care of each other, we will ensure there are better days ahead for all of us,” said Premier Horgan, in a news release. “The steps we are taking now will improve health care, get people back to work, support B.C. businesses and strengthen our neighbourhoods and communities.”
British Columbia entered the pandemic as an economic leader in Canada, making it among the best-positioned provinces to support a strong recovery. Since moving forward with a safe restart plan in mid-May, B.C. has had stronger-than-expected consumer spending, housing activity and employment gains, according to government. As of August 2020, almost 250,000 jobs had been restored, equal to 62 per cent of the total jobs lost due to the pandemic.
“When COVID-19 first hit, we acted quickly to keep people safe and support those in need. While we are now starting to see hopeful signs of recovery, we know many people are still struggling and there is a lot of work left to do,” said James. “British Columbians are pulling together, and we’ll be there to support them every step of the way. Our province has a strong foundation to build a recovery that creates opportunities for all.”
The plan includes:
* Hiring 7,000 new front-line health-care workers. This includes thousands of health-care aides to manage outbreaks in long-term care homes and 600 contact tracers to help stop further spread in the community. The plan will also increase support for mental health care in the workplace and introduce a new Hospital at Home initiative that will allow patients to receive medical services in their own home from a team of health professionals.
* Funding targeted and short-term training in the skills people need to get work in high-demand fields, including for those who want to move into new, front-line health, child care and human-service positions. The plan will also expand Indigenous skills training and accelerate the creation of affordable child-care spaces so that more parents, particularly women, can get back to work. It includes investments of over $100 million to support tourism-related businesses and communities.
* Provide businesses with a 15 per cent refundable tax credit based on eligible new payroll. It will also introduce a small- and medium-sized business recovery grant to support approximately 15,000 hard-hit businesses, while protecting as many as 200,000 jobs. Tourism operators will be eligible for a special top-up. The plan will also provide a temporary 100 per cent PST rebate on select machinery and equipment to make it easier for eligible businesses to make the kinds of investments that will allow them to grow and become more productive.
* Providing more than $400 million to revitalize community infrastructure and support local governments to provide the valuable services people depend on. This includes $100 million in infrastructure grants for shovel-ready projects that will create jobs right away. The plan also earmarks over $1 billion in provincial and federal investments to help keep people moving, whether by transit, TransLink or BC Ferries. An additional $540 million in combined federal/provincial funding will help B.C. communities address other local challenges impacted by COVID-19.
The plan includes $1.5 billion in economic recovery spending measures that respond to immediate needs. This money was earmarked for recovery spending in the spring. It is in addition to $660 million in tax measures and more than $1.86 billion in federal and provincial restart funding for municipalities, transit and education. It also builds on B.C.’s record $22-billion investment in public infrastructure over the next three years. Those capital projects are estimated to create 100,000 direct and indirect jobs over the life of the projects.
The Liberals, however, say it’s more of an NDP election plan than an economic recovery plan.
“We’re in the middle of a global pandemic with case counts rising, record unemployment, and an economic crisis,” said Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson. “The NDP blowing through the $2.7 billion surplus left by the BC Liberals hasn’t helped the situation either. British Columbians have had to rely on the federal government for much-needed supports while John Horgan cooked-up plans for an unnecessary snap election. Thousands of people are out of work and countless small businesses are struggling to stay open and all they’re getting is an NDP election scheme in disguise.”
He said the plan does not contain long-term plans to help people facing the end of federal supports and can’t find work or the small businesses who are fighting to keep their doors open. It also features no long-term plan to ensure our communities stay healthy and safe, and that people have hope that there will be opportunities in the future.
“There’s nothing in today’s NDP plan that couldn’t have been delivered months ago when it was needed the most,” he said. “As B.C. faces the ongoing challenges of COVID-19, we need real leadership. It’s time for a government with the vision and competence to work to remobilize the economy. We’re not getting that from John Horgan and the NDP. While public health officials continue to do their best to keep us safe, John Horgan has been busy plotting how to save his job with a cynical election. British Columbians deserve a government that prioritizes people, not the political future of John Horgan.”