By JACKIE TEGART
MLA, Fraser- Nicola
FOLLOWING THE ANNOUNCEMENT of the government’s long-awaited plan to restart B.C.’s economy this week, we should all take pause and be proud of our collective action to flatten the curve, which has resulted in some of the lowest infection numbers in North America.
However, the reality is we have to keep it up, even as we slowly begin relaxing some of the physical distancing regulations and as non-essential businesses begin to reopen later this month. This is a daunting task that needs to be clearly laid out for British Columbians who are all facing the impact of this crisis uniquely.
My colleagues and I are in a unique position in that our roles as regional representatives means that we interact with a large variety of people. My constituency of Fraser-Nicola alone has dozens of communities and thousands of residents.
Since this crisis began, we have received an increasing amount of daily correspondence from concerned and worried constituents who are looking for answers to their myriad of challenges.
Through my office and virtual town halls, I have heard from farmers, plumbers, teachers, registered massage therapists, truck drivers, nurses, restaurant owners, child care providers, small businesses owners, arts and culture groups and more.
Some qualify for assistance, some are falling through the cracks and for many, they simply want to balance their livelihoods and their safety as they begin to reopen their businesses. Frustratingly, seeing the issues and questions that come across my desk I know that this plan lacks the clarity to many of the questions my constituents have been asking.
Every day we hear about people struggling to get by and yet disappointingly, this plan does not provide any new supports. It also lacks clarity on how to get businesses safely functioning again, rebuilding employment levels and ensuring confidence in British Columbia’s economic recovery. There is no doubt that British Columbians have the strength to rebuild and persevere through this unprecedented challenge, but the uncertainty is looming large.
This week, B.C. Liberal Leader Andrew Wilkinson sent a letter to Premier Horgan outlining some additional measures to restore B.C.’s economic activity and get us back on track. This includes an increased testing and monitoring plan, temporary tax breaks from the Provincial Sales Tax, Employer Health Tax and Hotel Tax, a short-term commercial rent-relief plan and a freeze on any further additional costs that would hurt small businesses in the coming months.
Additionally, we proposed a rural B.C.-specific strategy to help get rural communities the supports that they will need.
As we move through the rest of the month and begin to see how reopening is working from a medical and economic standpoint, we must remain vigilant. B.C. has become a leading example of how to control the virus. Now we must manage the recovery with that same attitude.
I look forward with positivity, as I know we are up to the task and I look forward to government clarifying more of the unknowns facing hundreds of thousands of British Columbians.
Jackie Tegart is the MLA for Fraser-Nicola.