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

Members of Huu-ay-aht First Nations conducted two checkpoints on Monday, May 10, asking people who enter the territory to respect the sacred principles and to act accordingly while on Huu-ay-aht land. (SUBMITTED PHOTO)
Huu-ay-aht First Nations set up checkpoints in territory

Access restrictions come after forestry incidents

Bulldogs forward Brandon Buhr is knocked off the puck by Grizzlies defenceman Lindsay Reid. (ELENA RARDON / ALBERNI VALLEY NEWS)
BCHL: Alberni Valley Bulldogs beaten back-to-back by Victoria Grizzlies

Victoria Grizzlies named Island Champions while Bulldogs take second place

In 1903, if you were looking north down First Avenue with Alberni in the distance, this is what you would have seen. Scattered houses along River Road are visible, as is the corner of Watson Block building in the lower lefthand corner of the photograph. This photo is part of the 24,000 online collection of the Alberni Valley Museum. View this one and more at https://portalberni.pastperfectonline.com. (PHOTO PN02975 COURTESY ALBERNI VALLEY MUSEUM)
LOOK BACK: Historic street scenes of Port Alberni

Take a peek back in time with the Alberni Valley Museum’s digital archives

This photo shows Franklin River Camp "B" circa 1940. Logging was started in the Franklin River area by Bloedel, Stewart & Welch in 1934. This is one of 42 photos of the Franklin River area, donated together in an album put together by the donor's husband, Stanley Young. Young worked as a highrigger in the Franklin River area from 1939-46. This is one of 24,000 photos contained in the Alberni Valley Museum’s digital archives, available for public viewing at https://portalberni.pastperfectonline.com. (PHOTO PN10830 COURTESY ALBERNI VALLEY MUSEUM)
LOOK BACK: Logging along Franklin River

Take a peek at Alberni Valley history with the Alberni Valley Museum

Getting enough Vitamin D can be challenging for Canadians, especially during winter months. (CONTRIBUTED)
ACTIVE LIVING: The ‘sunshine vitamin’ plays a vital role in our health

Port Alberni registered dietitian Sandra Gentleman writes about health issues

A bullet hole is seen in the windshield of an RCMP vehicle approximately 4 km from Vancouver International Airport after a one person was killed during a shooting outside the international departures terminal at the airport, in Richmond, B.C., Sunday, May 9, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Homicide team IDs man in fatal YVR shooting as police grapple with spate of gang violence

Man, 20, charged in separate fatal shooting Burnaby over the weekend

RCMP are searching for Philip Toner, who is a ‘person of interest’ in the investigation of a suspicious death in Kootenay National Park last week. Photo courtesy BC RCMP.
RCMP identify ‘person of interest’ in Kootenay National Park suspicious death

Police are looking for Philip Toner, who was known to a woman found dead near Radium last week

Vancouver Canucks goaltender Thatcher Demko (35) makes a save on Winnipeg Jets’ Nate Thompson (11) during second period NHL action in Winnipeg, Monday, May 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Fred Greenslade
Vancouver Canucks see NHL playoff hopes dashed despite 3-1 win over Winnipeg

Montreal Canadiens earn final North Division post-season spot

The B.C. legislature went from 85 seats to 87 before the 2017 election, causing a reorganization with curved rows and new desks squeezed in at the back. The next electoral boundary review could see another six seats added. (Black Press files)
B.C. election law could add six seats, remove rural protection

North, Kootenays could lose seats as cities gain more

The Independent Investigations Office of B.C. is investigating the shooting of an Indigenous woman in the Ucluelet First Nation community of Hitacu. (Black Press Media file photo)
B.C. First Nation wants ‘massive change’ after its 3rd police shooting in less than a year

Nuu-chah-nulth woman recovering from gunshot wounds in weekend incident near Ucluelet

Nurse Gurinder Rai, left, administers the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine to Maria Yule at a Fraser Health drive-thru vaccination site, in Coquitlam, B.C., on Wednesday, May 5, 2021. The site is open for vaccinations 11 hours per day to those who have pre-booked an appointment. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
COVID vaccine bookings to open for adults 40+, or 18+ in hotspots, across B.C.

Only people who have registered will get their alert to book

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Most Read