Recovery plan slaps Band-Aid on major economic hemorrhage

May we be clear?  

The purported NDP economic recovery plan is designed to be a NDP majority government recovery plan. 

Not for nearly two decades, when Netflix was only mailing us DVDs, when water was free and we were paying for journalism, have the NDP been inhaling the scent of sustained political power in the province. Didn’t last, but was fun for them while it did. 

They want that fun back. They want to shed the weight of the BCGreen Party as a minority partner with outsized leverage. They want to send the coalesced BC Liberal Party back to the alchemist’s lair.  

They see the coronavirus as a path to coronation.  

Thursday, though, was no great step forward into the past.  

The John Horgan administration could have laid out a solid, substantial economic strategy to cope with the pandemic today and forseeably. It could have applied the same leadership to economic well-being that Dr. Bonnie Henry has applied to well-being, period. Instead it laid out a tepid, incomplete precursor to an election platform, neither strong enough medicine today nor a sign that medics are on their way.  

Coronavirus is a tragedy and calamity, and it is far too often referred to as an opportunity when it is anything but that for most people. In politics, though, everything is about opportunity.  

Trouble for the NDP is, the road to our recovery has to overcome a surprise flat tire. To mix metaphors: if we’re going to heck in a handcart, Horgan is not applying any big brakes. 

There is no new money beyond the $1.5 billion earlier announced, and only modest new measures to forego tax revenue. The funds to spread the love of nearly 60 economic Band-Aids across sectors is not up to a task that requires tourniquets and field dressing.  

Perhaps many of us were wrong in expecting a forward-thinking plan instead of details of an earlier one. If it does not publicly disappoint the business community, then the business community is being too polite – it can’t possibly have given this advice in recent months. An extra zero on the total might have been about right to get the province moving, not just shaking. The promise is that more is coming in the spring budget, as if we can all wait. 

As for the tax measures, they will help in some cases immediately to reduce capital expenditures, but most (like slight credits to add to workforces) won’t be captured until tax time in 2021, so the pain persists.  

A still-vague $500 million investment fund, meantime, appears to be targeting only businesses on death’s door who have a plan to spring back to life. If your business is down 50% at this point from last year, it likely means it’s near the point of giving up, not getting back up. 

No one can ever accuse the Horgan government of excessive wisdom on economic stimulation, but the plan strikes a strangely unworrying tone. It suggests we’re not in a world of hurt – that we’ve done better than others and will not need what others will to recoup. This isn’t the world of our retail streets, tourism spots, convention halls or eateries, and Thursday’s gesture isn’t going to change that for many of the 150,000 British Columbians who were working in February and aren’t today. 

Which brings us back to the expected election.  

Surely and certainly, a campaign is going to have to elicit more imaginative ideas. Most governments are trying to build better; this one doesn’t even really try to build back. 

The underwhelming vision offers the Liberals their first real opening amid a pandemic that has featured the assurances of Horgan, Health Minister Adrian Dix and trusted public servant Henry.  

If politics is indeed about opportunity, this is theirs. 

Kirk LaPointe is publisher and editor-in-chief of Business in Vancouver and vice-president, editorial, of Glacier Media.