Last week, the B.C. Legislature returned for what will undoubtedly be remembered as one of the most historic sessions of parliament our province has ever seen. For the first time since being abruptly suspended because of the pandemic, MLAs from all corners of our province came together — some in-person and others virtually — to tackle the daunting challenges of reopening our province and restarting our economy.
Throughout the pandemic, all parties upheld the spirit of cooperation as we focused on the singular goal of fighting COVID-19 and preventing it from overwhelming our healthcare system. As the Legislature resumes, and we remain united behind Dr. Bonnie Henry and her team as they battle the pandemic, our attention turned to the government’s failure on the economic front. After months of time to prepare, instead of producing an economic recovery plan the government announced a six week online survey. This lack of action will have very real consequences for British Columbians desperate for relief.
Every day that British Columbians are kept in the dark is another day this province cannot move forward with the certainty that we need to make our economic recovery a success. This government has yet to release details on how it intends to utilize the $1.5 billion allocated by the Legislature to assist British Columbians in their economic recovery and the Official Opposition pressed the government hard on this throughout the week.
Also at the forefront last week was the issue of the temporary layoff period. On June 23, groups representing thousands of small businesses and employers throughout B.C. issued an urgent plea to the NDP government requesting they amend the Employment Standards Act to extend the temporary layoff time limits, which were set to expire in early July.
Throughout the week, John Horgan and the NDP refused to announce an extension to the time limits which, if not addressed, would have triggered thousands of layoffs and put countless businesses at risk of bankruptcy. Only after sustained pressure from the Official Opposition and business groups did the NDP finally relent and agree to make the extension.
This week also marked the resumption of budget estimates debate, where we go through the budgetary plans of various ministries and identify key issues. As the Opposition Critic for Education, last week was my opportunity to question the Education Minister on why his ministry has chosen to slash the funding to Independent Distributed Learning schools by 20 per cent. Unfortunately, his response was less than satisfactory, but these debates serve as a way for us to shed light on government actions and expenses that British Columbians deserve to know about.
We are only through the first week and there is much work to be done but I would like to take this opportunity to thank all of you for putting your faith in me as your MLA. It is an honour to be a part of this historic moment and advocate for our region and our province’s economic recovery. Thank you.
Dan Davies is MLA Peace River North.