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

Police seized two fake guns and a knife on Saturday along Gladys Avenue in east Abbotsford.
Man arrested in Abbotsford after having fake gun for second time this year

Officers respond to all firearm calls as if the guns are real, police say

Tabor Home in Abbotsford. (Ben Lypka/Abbotsford News)
Tabor Home records 8 deaths and 124 COVID-19 cases

63 per cent of residents at Abbotsford long-term-care facility have tested positive

This home at 1405 Kaslo Court was all lit up for the holidays in 2019. (File photo)
Tell us about your Christmas light displays

Holiday-light list to be published online and in newspaper

The Fraser Valley Health Care Foundation holds the third annual It’s a Wonderful Breakfast fundraiser on Dec. 10 as a drive-thru event featuring White Spot’s BC Sunny Start sandwich.
Drive-thru breakfast raises funds for ER expansion in Abbotsford

FV Health Care Foundation holds annual hospital fundraiser on Dec. 10

Google Maps screenshot taken at 7:06 a.m.
Early-morning crash on Highway 1 has morning commuters in gridlock

Westbound crash occurred in Langley, west of 264th Street; left lane blocked

People wearing face masks to help curb the spread of COVID-19 cross a street in downtown Vancouver, on Sunday, November 22, 2020. The use of masks is mandatory in indoor public and retail spaces in the province. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. reports 17 COVID deaths, 1,933 new cases as hospitalizations surge over the weekend

There are 277 people in hospital, of whom 59 are in ICU or critical care

BC Teachers' Federation President Teri Mooring is asking parents of school-aged children to encourage the wearing of masks when possible in schools. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito)
LETTER: Teachers union encourages culture of mask wearing in B.C. schools

BCTF President Teri Mooring asks parents to talk with children about wearing masks in school

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speak to the media about the COVID-19 virus outside Rideau Cottage in Ottawa, Friday, Nov. 20, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada’s inability to manufacture vaccines in-house will delay distribution: Trudeau

First doses of COVID-19 vaccine expected in first few months of 2021, prime minister says

Police lights
Vancouver elementary school locked down after unknown man walks into classroom

Police arrested the man and sent him for a psych evaluation

(Pixabay)
All dance studios, other indoor group fitness facilities must close amid updated COVID-19 rules

Prior announcement had said everything except spin, HIIT and hot yoga could remain open

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

B.C. Liberal interim leader Shirley Bond speaks to reporters from Prince George via Zoom conference, Nov. 24, 2020. MLAs are being sworn in for the legislature session this week, many of them also by video. (B.C. legislature)
B.C. Liberal leadership contest will wait for election post-mortem

Interim leader set to face NDP on payments for COVID-19

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

Product Care offers more than <a href="http://link.mediaoutreach.meltwater.com/ls/click?upn=pDYyTceU0YgTDdsd92GohdQJsmSiPFEkcB4MdMM0Qkoqb1aJA-2By5aWklKJXV6QRdyTteNjr2FccUOVLUe4t5Zw-3D-3D1ds-_KVyBcpjXADXifSWVpM8nQcAzSm9-2B6fEFnjVrTsOcu31irDHDxi5k0QTOIWCqMXUxaNbrf0yRzXSSpROCkfx3NkUtbr65Dkcw1J0by-2F-2BDdDiJGbcfhtjHWYSs66NwakeCCLYkj20e9ICIZsLcedqNZKBhsN0sGgBsInpdzsddYikUZkmQvFdxLJhakpgAA6aAJ5ScUoWR6vO9sM819vRB-2F6x7dsdfIaWa4ZgHxR4G7hauxgSJCsNI2bP5J62EFfM0aiDqRPwUPUjt7i5-2FMqpdJxrEBewnLky-2B3lE0JAmi5UsJBkJejuLOjsndZz4b7dNgbvt6KyewKuF0sxU2rpYgkAO9YAKc9STuFJd28Qn7jE0-2FqlB8HKOvpW150NHS-2BOMBcK5rkZ8YAuPqJy11k-2BgndiKB-2FWl2icAfbWtRGJPb8fM-3D" target="_blank">150 free drop-off locations</a> in B.C. (Pixabay.com)
Recycling broken or burnt string lights can reduce holiday landfill waste

In 2019, Product Care Recycling diverted more than 11.6 million light bulbs from landfills

Most Read