Action needed in key areas to revive B.C. economy and protect businesses

People across our province have stepped up and made sacrifices to help stop the spread of COVID-19. Thanks to the dedication of British Columbians and the hard work of Dr. Bonnie Henry’s team and our frontline workers, we’ve had some of the lowest case numbers in the country.  

As British Columbia keeps fighting the pandemic and saving lives, government needs to make sure we can also save livelihoods. We’re now in a deep recession with hundreds of thousands of people still out of work and countless small businesses in danger of losing everything. People need help.

I’m hearing from British Columbians daily about the challenges they’re facing. The BC Liberals have been listening to people in every corner of the province and putting forward common-sense ideas to government. Over the past three months we have written over a dozen letters to the Premier, offering over 60 suggestions and ideas to get British Columbians and the economy back on track.

We're calling for immediate action in five key areas: small businesses, workplace safety, the hospitality industry, care for children and seniors and community safety.

When it comes to kick-starting our economy and protecting small business, what we’re asking for is simple. Temporary tax breaks on PST and the Employer Health Tax, a sustainable commercial rent relief plan, the creation of a small business hardship grant and a freeze on any new regulations that would add more costs onto the backs of struggling local shops and businesses and the people who work there.

Bars and restaurants have been hit hard by COVID-19, with half of all independent restaurants not expected to survive. One in ten restaurants has already closed its doors for good. With over 120,000 restaurant employees out of work right now in B.C., it's clear that these people need help right now. The BC Liberals pushed government to ease restrictions so people could safely enjoy a visit to their favourite patio or order a bottle of wine with their dinner delivery. However, temporary fixes like these are only band-aid solutions and won’t be enough to help these struggling businesses survive. We need certainty and clarity that there’s a detailed economic recovery plan in place to make sure everyone impacted can get back on their feet. 

To that end, safety must remain the top priority as we reopen the economy. That's why we've recommended using some of WorkSafeBC's $2 billion surplus to help small businesses and non-profits buy personal protective equipment (PPE) and implement safety upgrades — like plexiglass shielding — to protect workers and customers. These safety upgrades represent a big expense for small businesses and non-profits to reopen and many can’t afford them after months of little or no revenue.

Making sure our families are safe and healthy is a priority for almost everyone, whether that’s our schools, child care facilities or long-term care facilities for seniors. We’ve heard from parents, teachers, child care providers and frontline staff in care homes that they want clarity on their safety. We've asked the government for a more detailed safety plan for daycares and day homes, including requiring a COVID-19 test of any child or worker before they come into the building. We are also pushing to make PPE and cleaning supplies part of the ongoing basic Child Care Operating Fund program, including simple diagnostic tools such as thermometers.

When it comes to taking care of our senior citizens who have been the most affected by COVID-19, we're calling for an independent review of elder care facilities in British Columbia to clearly define where the system has performed well, and where it has failed. On top of that, government needs to make sure that B.C. is prepared to meet the growing demand for staffing in seniors’ care. 

All these measures are designed to help people get back on their feet, get back to work and adjust to living in our new normal. Government needs to be focused on getting businesses safely functioning again and rebuilding employment. At stake is the future prosperity of British Columbia. This will not be easy, but I believe we have the people and the ideas to get it done. We can do better.