Working smoothly together on May 11, 2020, health minister Adrian Dix, B.C. Liberal health critic Norm Letnick, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and sign language interpreter Nigel Howard. (B.C. government video)

Working smoothly together on May 11, 2020, health minister Adrian Dix, B.C. Liberal health critic Norm Letnick, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and sign language interpreter Nigel Howard. (B.C. government video)

B.C. VOTES 2020

COVID-19 co-operation a casualty of B.C.’s pandemic election

NDP’s Horgan emphasizes senior care spending, B.C. Liberal Wilkinson calls for ‘wartime economy’

For months, B.C. was a model of non-partisan coronavirus co-operation, with Premier John Horgan yielding the microphone to Dr. Bonnie Henry, even as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and other premiers were on TV daily.

MLAs in the B.C. legislature did their grim duty quickly and unanimously in March, borrowing $5 billion and leaving it to the NDP minority government to disperse it as the province’s economic health rapidly declined. NDP health minister Adrian Dix frequently worked with B.C. Liberal critic Norm Letnick on the pandemic, as well as reform of medical professions and other public needs.

Then came the summer-long delay in tourism and small business relief, held back by Horgan until days before the election call. The delay means its modest assistance to the hardest-hit businesses would not arrive until 2021. That and the surprise timing of the election itself have been Horgan’s biggest political problems as he tries to gain a majority in the pandemic.

B.C. Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson had been warning of a snap election since August. When it came, his response was an echo of the 2001 party under Gordon Campbell, which won a huge majority and cut personal income taxes 25 per cent. Wilkinson wants to jump-start business recovery and consumer spending with a one-year suspension of the provincial sales tax, and a reduced rate the next year that would put the province billions further in debt.

“This is like a wartime economy where a quarter of businesses might close in a year,” Wilkinson said in the leaders’ TV debate Oct. 13.

RELATED: Tourism business aid ‘happening now, dude,’ Horgan insists

RELATED: Green leader pushes Horgan on climate, Wilkinson on debt

RELATED: Parties battle over tax promises to recover from COVID-19

Horgan responded to the sales tax cut with a promise to send out another round of payments of up to $1,000 to all but the highest-earning families and $500 to individuals, whether they have lost income or not. Horgan acknowledged later the promised cash payments were added to the platform late, as a direct response to Wilkinson’s PST cut proposal.

In debates and campaign stops, Horgan has emphasized Dix’s work in upgrading the understaffed seniors’ long-term care network. His frequent criticism of the B.C. Liberals refers to an NDP law that stopped “contract flipping” by care home owners to renegotiate union contracts, mostly with the Hospital Employees’ Union. Horgan regularly refers to 10,000 mainly female care aides “fired” (and mostly rehired) under the B.C. Liberals. The pandemic has prompted the NDP to raise care aide wages to union levels and eliminate multi-site work, earning national praise for it.

B.C. Green Party leader Sonia Furstenau’s platform described the COVID-19 pandemic as an opportunity to move toward a guaranteed income, and broader early childhood education and non-profit rental housing. Its small business recovery plan includes the same size fund as the NDP crisis grants, $300 million, put toward subsidizing business rents.

B.C. Liberal platform highlights:

• In the first 60 days, eliminate PST for a year, start review of regulations and ban elections during states of emergency

• implement province-wide framework for hybrid and online learning options and promote distance learning programs

• Set up a pandemic response committee with all party participation, and an independent review of senior care homes’ response to COVID-19

B.C. NDP platform highlights:

• The NDP platform promises to make its restaurant relief measures permanent, including beer, wine and liquor at wholesale prices, liquor delivery with takeout, and expanded patios

• A second round of COVID-19 emergency payments, up to $1,000 per family or $500 per single person

• “Fast-track” improvements to online and remote learning in B.C. schools

B.C. Greens platform highlights:

• keep school district funding at current levels even as enrolment declines due to COVID-19

• $24 million in new funding for school counsellors to support student mental health

• $300 million to cover up to 25 per cent of rental costs for small business for six months


@tomfletcherbc
tfletcher@blackpress.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

BC politicsBC Votes 2020

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

An aerial shot of Cedar Valley Lodge this past August, LNG Canada’s newest accommodation for workers. This is where several employees are isolating after a COVID-19 outbreak was declared last Thursday (Nov. 19). (Photo courtesy of LNG Canada)
41 positive COVID-19 cases associated with the LNG Canada site outbreak

Thirty-four of the 41 cases remain active, according to Northern Health

Cases have gone up in Northern Health in the past week, as they have all over B.C. (K-J Millar/Black Press Media)
Northern Health reports new highest number of COVID-19 cases in one day

Nineteen cases were reported to Public Health last Tuesday (Nov. 17)

FILE – British Columbia provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry wears a face mask as she views the Murals of Gratitude exhibition in Vancouver, on Friday, July 3, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Masks now mandatory in all public indoor and retail spaces in B.C.

Many retailers and businesses had voiced their frustration with a lack of mask mandate before

(Photo courtesy of LNG Canada)
An aerial shot of Cedar Valley Lodge this past August, LNG Canada’s newest accommodation for workers. This is where several employees are isolating after a COVID-19 outbreak was declared Thursday.
COVID-19 outbreak at LNG Canada Project site

14 employees have tested positive for COVID-19 at this time

A man has been arrested after a Nov. 11 break and enter at the Sandspit Airport, Queen Charlotte RCMP said in a media release on. Nov 17. (Black Press Media files)
Man arrested after Nov. 11 break and enter at local airport

Queen Charlotte RCMP investigate recent spate of break and enters

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix and provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry update the COVID-19 situation at the B.C. legislature, Nov. 23, 2020. (B.C. government)
B.C. sets another COVID-19 record with 887 new cases

Another 13 deaths, ties the highest three days ago

Arthur Topham has been sentenced to one month of house arrest and three years of probation after breaching the terms of his probation. Topham was convicted of promoting hate against Jewish people in 2015. (Photo submitted)
Quesnel man convicted for anti-Semitic website sentenced to house arrest for probation breach

Arthur Topham was convicted of breaching probation following his 2017 sentence for promoting hatred

Langley School District's board office. (Langley Advance Times files)
‘Sick Out’ aims to pressure B.C. schools over masks, class sizes

Parents from Langley and Surrey are worried about COVID safety in classrooms

The baby boy born to Gillian and Dave McIntosh of Abbotsford was released from hospital on Wednesday (Nov. 25) while Gillian continues to fight for her life after being diagnosed with COVID-19.
B.C. mom with COVID-19 still fighting for life while newborn baby now at home

Son was delivered Nov. 10 while Gillian McIntosh was in an induced coma

B.C. Premier John Horgan, a Star Trek fan, can’t resist a Vulcan salute as he takes the oath of office for a second term in Victoria, Nov. 26, 2020. (B.C. government)
Horgan names 20-member cabinet with same pandemic team

New faces in education, finance, economic recovery

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

The corporate headquarters of Pfizer Canada are seen in Montreal, Monday, Nov. 9, 2020. The chief medical adviser at Health Canada says Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine could be approved in Canada next month. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Health Canada expects first COVID-19 vaccine to be approved next month

Canada has a purchase deal to buy at least 20 million doses of Pfizer’s vaccine,

FILE – A paramedic holds a test tube containing a blood sample during an antibody testing program at the Hollymore Ambulance Hub, in Birmingham, England, on Friday, June 5, 2020. (Simon Dawson/Pool via AP)
Want to know if you’ve had COVID-19? LifeLabs is offering an antibody test

Test costs $75 and is available in B.C. and Ontario

The grey region of this chart shows the growth of untraced infection, due to lack of information on potential sources. With added staff and reorganization, the gap is stabilized, Dr. Bonnie Henry says. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
B.C. adjusts COVID-19 tracing to keep up with surging cases

People now notified of test results by text message

Most Read