Minister of Finance Carole James. (Photo: THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito)

Finance Minister Carole James ‘optimistic’ about B.C.’s economic recovery

James noted more than 300,000 jobs lost in B.C. to the pandemic

Provincial Finance Minister Carole James says it “feels like a lifetime” since she tabled the 2020 provincial budget in February, just four months ago.

She observed the economy had already been slowing down, with “moderation” in economic growth across the globe, and so took that into account in building the budget.

“We made sure we had a strong, resilient economic foundation to be able to build from,” James said. “We certainly knew there were going to be challenges ahead, when it came to moderation, but I don’t think any of us could imagine the kind of situation that we’re all living through now.

“This is unlike any challenge that we’ve faced,” James said. “COVID-19 has impacted every sector, every family, every community, every part of our community.”

“When we’re talking about businesses being hit, that’s individuals and families as well, not only the business owners but in fact the employees.”

James noted that more than 300,000 jobs have been lost in British Columbia because of the pandemic.

She was the guest speaker in a Surrey Board of Trade “digital town hall” via Zoom. Monday’s topic was “COVID-19: Relief, Restart and Recovery for Surrey and B.C.”

The finance minister said while she knows people are “keen” to get back to work, “we need to do that in a very planned, and a very careful, and a very measured approach.”

“We don’t want to get ahead of ourselves,” she said.

READ ALSO: B.C.’s justice system in ‘triage,’ attorney general says

READ ALSO: Surrey panel tackles re-opening for business in the wake of COVID-19

James said $1.5 billion of B.C.’s $5 billion COVID plan has been earmarked for economic recovery. “Once again, I think it’s critical to note that we did that from the start.”

“That’s one-time money,” she said. “We will be gathering the feedback, as we are doing now, through ministries meeting with their sectors, through the premiers table and through other areas. Individual business ideas have been coming forward as well. We’ll be making a determination around where those dollars can best be used.

James said while she “doesn’t want to pre-determine any processes,” she expects education will be “a big discussion” when it comes to how that money will be allocated.

“Do we look at further training, and skills training for the kinds of youth who are having to re-tool for new kinds of jobs, perhaps, or new industries?”

James said the government is tracking the impact the pandemic has had on particular sectors and age groups. For example, Stats Canada released employment-related figures last week, she noted, that show “the youth are particularly impacted, particularly facing challenges, 18 to 24-year-olds. And that’s no surprise when you look at the sectors that are most impacted – retail, restaurants, bars.”

On rent assistance for business owners, she said, last week the government brought in an emergency order to ensure that if a business is able to apply for the program and fit the criteria, but their landlord isn’t interested in applying, there will not be an eviction. “And that will stay in place as long as the federal program is in place and the emergency order’s in place.”

The provincial government also brought in a $1,000 emergency benefit for workers and in July it will “boost” the climate action tax credit. “We’re increasing that payment.”

“We’ve deferred everything from the employers health tax to the PST to the hotel tax, to the carbon tax,” James said. “We also cut property taxes. The school portion, which id the provincial portion of property taxes, we have cut by on the average about 20 per cent, which again gives that immediate relief.”

She said that while we have a “challenge” ahead, “I do feel optimistic about our recovery.”

James said the largest capital budget in B.C.’s history is contained in Budget 2020.

“So we have built in there the kind of infrastructure that also will assist as we look ahead, in to creating jobs. We have a large amount of infrastructure, for everything from hospitals to roads to bridges to transit, and that is in every corner of British Columbia, which will again provide us with a very good base to be able to provide that infrastructure spending and get those jobs going in British Columbia as well,” she said.

“We’re not leaving people behind.”



tom.zytaruk@surreynowleader.com

Like us on Facebook and follow Tom on Twitter

CoronavirusSurrey

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

Comments are closed

Just Posted

PHOTOS: Skidegate celebrates 2020 grads with button blanket ceremony

Graduating students celebrated with Haida singing, drumming, speeches and custom button blankets

VIDEO: Port Clements bumper golf course in full swing

Volunteers, rec staff transformed soccer field into small, social distancing-friendly golf course

Gwaii Trust Society creates ‘Staycation Grant’ for Haida Gwaii residents

Residents may apply for up to $250 to explore adventure opportunities in their own backyard

Iconic Haida Gwaii species to be included in literary field guide for ‘Cascadia’

Experts, artists working on literary field guide with ‘kinship clusters’ for Pacific Northwest

Kristi Lane Sinclair art doc ‘taking a different stance’ on the Gaag.iid

Toronto-based Haida artist hopes to start editing passion project on the fabled ‘wild man’ next month

13 new B.C. COVID-19 cases, Langley Lodge outbreak ends

Health care outbreaks down to four, 162 cases active

B.C. teacher loses licence after sexual relationships with two recently-graduated students

The teacher won’t be allowed to apply for a teaching certificate until 2035

White-throated sparrows have changed their tune, B.C. study unveils

Study marks an unprecedented development scientists say has caused them to sit up and take note

Skeena Sawmills in Terrace reach labour agreement with local United Steelworkers union

The four and a half year long deal was ratified on May 19, 2020 and is retroactive to Jan. 1, 2020

Alberta health minister orders review into response after noose found in hospital in 2016

A piece of rope tied into a noose was found taped to the door of an operating room at the Grande Prairie Hospital in 2016

B.C.’s major rivers surge, sparking flood warnings

A persistent low pressure system over Alberta has led to several days of heavy rain

B.C.’s Indigenous rights law faces 2020 implementation deadline

Pipeline projects carry on as B.C. works on UN goals

‘Mind boggling’: B.C. man $1 million richer after winning Lotto 6/49 a second time

David O’Brien hopes to use his winnings to travel and of course keep playing the lottery

Most Read