By Fran Yanor / Legislative Reporter
On Sept. 17, Premier John Horgan and Finance Minister Carole James presented B.C.’s $1 billion recovery plan intended to navigate through the pandemic and beyond.
Full economic recovery will take time, said James. “This plan is an immediate next step with long term goals in mind (that) will move us closer to a stronger and more resilient British Columbia.”
The recovery plan includes nearly $1 billion in grants and tax incentives for businesses, $100M for the tourism sector and a $300 million for ‘shovel ready’ community infrastructure jobs, and nearly $2 billion in funding (between the Federal government and the Province) to support municipalities, transportation infrastructure, and education.
Here’s an overview:
Jobs and training
$117 million will go towards new jobs, training, and Indigenous skills training, including 1,000 jobs created to protect natural spaces and 500 in various communities for wildfire prevention.
Increased childcare spaces to help parents return to work, and additional supports for those facing disabilities and other barriers to returning to work.
Previously announced jobs and training programs in the health care sector will result in 600 additional contact tracers and 7,000 more people working in long-term care and assisted living facilities.
A $190 million employment incentive will provide businesses a 15 per cent tax credit on payroll for new employees to support growth.
PST rebates worth $470 million will stimulate investment encouraging businesses to purchase new equipment and machinery.
$300 million in recovery grants will be available for small and medium-sized business that have been particularly impacted by the pandemic. The grants are intended for employers with two to 149 employees that have experienced a 50 per cent or more drop in business.
The tourism sector will get $100 million to support businesses and communities and help them prepare for the 2021 season.
Half that funding will go to enacting recommendations of a provincial tourism task force. The task force will be convened to develop recommendations to ensure B.C. is ideally positioned for next year’s tourism season.
Of that, $19 million is earmarked for communities to help them expand and diversify their tourism infrastructure and up to $10,000 will be available to support individual recovery grants to small and medium-sized tourism operators.
The arts and culture industries will receive $21 million.
Continuing capital projects
The Province promised record spending of nearly $3 billion on capital projects, including $90 million to continue increasing connectivity along major routes and extending services into more communities.
The Province will keep expanding its network of primary care centres, including several First Nations health centres, a new hospital in Fort St. John, and acute care facilities for Fort St. James and Terrace.
As of Aug. 28, B.C. was middle of the pack compared to other provinces with a 5.4 per cent drop in GDP for 2020, while Alberta took the biggest hit at 7.9 per cent. More positively, B.C. was among the strongest rebounders, with a forecasted increase of 5.2 per cent in 2021.
.C.’s unemployment rate is dropping, from 11.3 per cent in mid-July to 10.4 per cent in mid-September.
A surprise for some was the sharp upturn in housing starts and home sales; by July/August, both had surpassed pre-pandemic levels.
The big pot of money is the $1.86 billion Safe Start fund for municipalities, transportation infrastructure and education which is cost shared by B.C. and the Federal government.
For smaller communities, there is immediate job creation potential in the $300 million community infrastructure plan to fund jobs fast, including road, rural airport, rail and trail improvements.
“We’ll get shovels in the ground as quickly as possible,” said Horgan. “So we can kickstart our economy and keep people working.”
Fran Yanor / Local Journalism Initiative / Rocky Mountain Goat / [email protected]