Our country, our province and all of us have been through a rough few months during the global COVID-19 pandemic.
Lives have sadly been lost here in BC, but the spread of the disease and the number of deaths has been kept as low as possible thanks to incredible efforts by health workers, by those working in delivery services, grocery stores, and the like, and by individual British Columbians. British Columbia has been a real leader, and a non-partisan approach united MLAs on a single cause – getting us through the worst of the situation.
The impacts of the pandemic and the accompanying shutdowns have been staggering. More than 350,000 people have lost their jobs. The tourism sector is on the rope with over 40% of businesses expecting to lose money this year. Small businesses are struggling to stay open with skeleton staffs.
But the first week back at the Legislature was a real disappointment. The government has abandoned leadership in the face of what could be the biggest challenges yet from COVID-19 – restarting the economy and making sure British Columbians can get safely back on the job.
The small and medium sized businesses that are the backbone of British Columbia and the workplace of the vast majority of people are already on the ropes. Most have barely survived the crisis. Many of the owners and operators and managers I speak to in the Peace tell me their business is at a crossroads. If the economy doesn’t open up, these mom and pop businesses won’t be open for much longer. They want leadership and a plan that will give both them and their customers confidence.
The failure to address this need for confidence is what makes the NDP government’s response so shocking and disappointing. They have only offered a six-week long public survey to find out what people think should be done. There is no plan to build confidence for the future.
The government has also rejected a number of ideas the Opposition has put forward that could be implemented quickly. A two to three-month holiday on the PST could spark much needed spending. A temporary suspension of the hotel tax and the employer health tax could help businesses navigate the economic rough waters.
All these ideas have been dismissed or ignored by the government. Instead, what we are seeing in the Legislature is a creeping return of the old NDP attitude that anyone who owns a business is a Rich Uncle Pennybags sitting on piles of cash. It’s truly shocking.
The Premier and his government have also refused to extend the 16-week-long temporary layoff period to help employers and employees. Without an extension, these layoffs will become permanent, and businesses without any money will go bankrupt paying severance. These are operations hoping to make it a few more weeks so they can be part of the recovery and rehire their staff. Instead, the government’s ignoring their problems.
The failure to act by the government will take a heavy toll on British Columbia’s employers. By the time the surveys are counted, and some plan is drawn up, I fear many doors will be closed, and too many jobs will be lost, forever.
If you have any ideas or questions, please contact me through my office at mike.bernier.MLA@leg.bc.ca, through my Facebook page at MikeBernierBC, at (250) 782-3430, or 1 (855) 582-3430.