Yesterday, MLAs returned to the legislature — either in person or via skype — to engage in what is surely one of the most unique and historic sessions of parliament in British Columbia’s history.
With COVID-19 and its impact to both our economy and our daily lives, B.C. is facing a whole new and daunting challenge from when we left parliament three months ago. Close consultation between this government and our communities will be vital for our province’ recovery. Throughout the pandemic, the Official Opposition upheld the spirit of co-operation and support that we saw all across British Columbia and entrusted this government to produce a coherent plan to get British Columbians back to work and our province back on track.
There are 300,000 British Columbians who have lost their jobs during our fight against COVID and now many businesses risk running past the temporary layoff period. Unless the Employment Standards Act is revised, many of our province’s 500,000 businesses and not-for-profits will be forced by law to permanently lay-off staff and issue severance payouts.
The BC Liberals have called on this government to take action immediately or risk economic catastrophe for thousands of businesses. So far, government has done nothing to help these businesses.
When it comes to our economic recovery plan, British Columbians have expected close consultation with business owners and community leaders to co-ordinate a viable and transparent plan that will give the public a strong understanding of what supports will be in place for them as they get back on their feet.
So far, we have seen none of this. There is little to no information on how exactly the remaining $1.5 billion of the Economic Recovery Fund is going to help our province. On top of this, the NDP have only engaged the public through the recent release of a public survey.
Where was this three months ago? Why are British Columbians only now getting a forum to discuss how they would like to see their taxes support them? We are not dealing with a small stimulus package here, we are talking about a billion-dollar relief fund intended to jumpstart our economy and help get hundreds of thousands of British Columbians get back to work.
This government has had months to plan this, so why has this been such a closed-door meeting with only a handful of ministers and party members? Time is a luxury we no longer have — every day action is delayed means more businesses that risk closing, more jobs we risk losing, and more families that will continue to struggle.
Whether in person or virtually, the BC Liberal caucus will be working hard to get the answers that British Columbians are looking for so we can see positive action that will put our province back on the road to recovery
Dan Davies is MLA for Peace River North.