The B.C. government will be officially back up and running next week with the swearing-in of new MLAs and the appointment of new cabinet ministers for the NDP majority government.
Premier John Horgan said the schedule allows a legislature session to begin Dec. 7, the main business being to get spending authorization for his promised round of pandemic relief payments. MLAs are to be sworn in Tuesday, Nov. 24 and cabinet ministers Nov. 26, in virtual ceremonies with Lt. Gov. Janet Austin.
The session will start with “a brief throne speech, talking about of course the fundamental issues of how do we as a community, how do we as a province, address the challenges of COVID-19.”
A small number of MLAs will be available in person to vote on borrowing another $1.4 billion to pay most households $1,000 and individuals $500, a promise made by Horgan in the recent election campaign to counter the B.C. Liberal offer of suspending provincial sales tax for a year.
Horgan stopped short of promising payments in time for Christmas, saying only that it is possible if the measure passes the legislature quickly. The plan is to use the records of B.C.’s COVID-19 relief payments sent out this spring, and the province’s income tax records to see who is eligible for full or partial payment, without an application process.
“And then we will distribute those dollars by direct deposit, is the intention,” Horgan said.
The payments would be added to B.C.’s ballooning deficit, last forecast to be headed towards $12.8 billion for the fiscal year that ends in March 2021.
In her final quarterly budget report in September, former finance minister Carole James cautioned that B.C.’s economic performance depends on many factors outside its control, including a second wave of coronavirus that is now evident across Canada and around the world.