When made a reality, spur-of-the-moment election commitments often fail to live up to the original promise. There is no clearer example of this than in the NDP’s much-anticipated B.C. Recovery Benefit. The NDP painted a picture of specifically targeted support that would help those most affected by COVID-19 through this difficult time. However, as British Columbians learned the details about this benefit over the past two weeks, it has turned out to be little more than a poorly thought-out election promise that fails to help the very people that have been most impacted by the pandemic.
The B.C. Recovery Benefit is the result of partisan posturing during the last election, as the NDP had to quickly come up with a proposal to compete with our BC Liberal promise to remove the PST for a year. John Horgan announced that if the NDP made it back into government, families would get a $1,000 one-time benefit deposited straight into their bank account this year. But we have learned that this benefit is not as straightforward as it was first presented. It will require people to apply for the money and more importantly, it will not be available to many of the people it was supposedly designed to support.
This is because the NDP decided that instead of coming up with a system that would base eligibility on British Columbians’ current financial situation, they would take the easier and far less effective route of basing it on 2019 tax returns. It is immediately obvious how problematic this is, as we all know that in 2019 we were not dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic and its impacts. Thousands of British Columbians had their hours dramatically cut or lost their jobs because of pandemic closures — people who were making above the income threshold in 2019, but are now, because of COVID-19, struggling to make ends meet in 2020.
It is beyond frustrating that the first program the NDP has put in place after calling a pandemic election is one that will not help many of those who have had their livelihoods impacted by COVID-19. It is even more frustrating when you realize that the only other thing they have done since calling the government back in session is introduce a bill that will allow them to delay the budget— thus delaying any other supports for British Columbians until next spring.
The lack of support and avoidance of accountability we have seen in the last two weeks is not what British Columbians were told to expect from this NDP government. It is a failure of leadership at a time when we need it most.