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Dan Davies: Caution, collaboration key to B.C.'s reboot

Despite the provincial government releasing its restart plan earlier this month, it’s clear that many questions remain unanswered, many of the guidelines lack the clarity people are looking for, and many people and small businesses still needing grea
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Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry, centre, responds to questions while B.C. Premier John Horgan, back left, and Health Minister Adrian Dix listen during a news conference about the provincial response to the coronavirus, in Vancouver, on Friday.

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Despite the provincial government releasing its restart plan earlier this month, it’s clear that many questions remain unanswered, many of the guidelines lack the clarity people are looking for, and many people and small businesses still needing greater support than what’s been provided by the province.

As members of the Official Opposition, we have been working closely with constituents and stakeholders across our ridings to hear their concerns. Over the past few weeks, Opposition Leader Andrew Wilkinson has put forward several ideas to government that would provide immediate actions to support people and businesses impacted by the pandemic.

This plan would include important tax reliefs, renter protections, and additional supports for restaurants and businesses to ensure we have the best chance to get our businesses and communities back on track.

In a series of letters to the Premier, Andrew Wilkinson proposed a 60 to 90-day break on the Provincial Sales Tax, the Hotel Tax and the Employer Health Tax, in addition to recommending the creation of a commercial rent relief plan that includes a no-eviction backstop.

We have heard stories of small businesses facing large rent increases in the middle of this pandemic and believe that no business or renter should face the threat of eviction during this crucial recovery period.

Restaurant owners have been some of the hardest-hit throughout the pandemic and are going to need an extra helping hand so we can all continue to enjoy the many great establishments in our local communities. We have called for the government to allow restaurants to purchase liquor wholesale, extend existing provincial liquor approvals for increased patio or outdoor space, and increase tax deductions for business-related meals to 100%.

Finally, while we would love to see British Columbians back to work as quickly as possible, safety must remain our number one priority. That is why we have asked this government to utilize the large WorksafeBC surplus to help fund the supply of PPE and safety equipment for B.C. businesses as they begin to open their doors.

As our province slowly returns to the workplace, a cautious and collaborative approach is paramount. We have already heard that the government is taking many of these ideas into consideration and hope they will continue to listen to the ideas of British Columbians as we all strive to put B.C. on the road to recovery.

Dan Davies is the MLA for Peace River North.