Minister of Finance Carole James. (Photo: THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito)

Finance Minister Carole James ‘optimistic’ about B.C.’s economic recovery

James noted more than 300,000 jobs lost in B.C. to the pandemic

Provincial Finance Minister Carole James says it “feels like a lifetime” since she tabled the 2020 provincial budget in February, just four months ago.

She observed the economy had already been slowing down, with “moderation” in economic growth across the globe, and so took that into account in building the budget.

“We made sure we had a strong, resilient economic foundation to be able to build from,” James said. “We certainly knew there were going to be challenges ahead, when it came to moderation, but I don’t think any of us could imagine the kind of situation that we’re all living through now.

“This is unlike any challenge that we’ve faced,” James said. “COVID-19 has impacted every sector, every family, every community, every part of our community.”

“When we’re talking about businesses being hit, that’s individuals and families as well, not only the business owners but in fact the employees.”

James noted that more than 300,000 jobs have been lost in British Columbia because of the pandemic.

She was the guest speaker in a Surrey Board of Trade “digital town hall” via Zoom. Monday’s topic was “COVID-19: Relief, Restart and Recovery for Surrey and B.C.”

The finance minister said while she knows people are “keen” to get back to work, “we need to do that in a very planned, and a very careful, and a very measured approach.”

“We don’t want to get ahead of ourselves,” she said.

READ ALSO: B.C.’s justice system in ‘triage,’ attorney general says

READ ALSO: Surrey panel tackles re-opening for business in the wake of COVID-19

James said $1.5 billion of B.C.’s $5 billion COVID plan has been earmarked for economic recovery. “Once again, I think it’s critical to note that we did that from the start.”

“That’s one-time money,” she said. “We will be gathering the feedback, as we are doing now, through ministries meeting with their sectors, through the premiers table and through other areas. Individual business ideas have been coming forward as well. We’ll be making a determination around where those dollars can best be used.

James said while she “doesn’t want to pre-determine any processes,” she expects education will be “a big discussion” when it comes to how that money will be allocated.

“Do we look at further training, and skills training for the kinds of youth who are having to re-tool for new kinds of jobs, perhaps, or new industries?”

James said the government is tracking the impact the pandemic has had on particular sectors and age groups. For example, Stats Canada released employment-related figures last week, she noted, that show “the youth are particularly impacted, particularly facing challenges, 18 to 24-year-olds. And that’s no surprise when you look at the sectors that are most impacted – retail, restaurants, bars.”

On rent assistance for business owners, she said, last week the government brought in an emergency order to ensure that if a business is able to apply for the program and fit the criteria, but their landlord isn’t interested in applying, there will not be an eviction. “And that will stay in place as long as the federal program is in place and the emergency order’s in place.”

The provincial government also brought in a $1,000 emergency benefit for workers and in July it will “boost” the climate action tax credit. “We’re increasing that payment.”

“We’ve deferred everything from the employers health tax to the PST to the hotel tax, to the carbon tax,” James said. “We also cut property taxes. The school portion, which id the provincial portion of property taxes, we have cut by on the average about 20 per cent, which again gives that immediate relief.”

She said that while we have a “challenge” ahead, “I do feel optimistic about our recovery.”

James said the largest capital budget in B.C.’s history is contained in Budget 2020.

“So we have built in there the kind of infrastructure that also will assist as we look ahead, in to creating jobs. We have a large amount of infrastructure, for everything from hospitals to roads to bridges to transit, and that is in every corner of British Columbia, which will again provide us with a very good base to be able to provide that infrastructure spending and get those jobs going in British Columbia as well,” she said.

“We’re not leaving people behind.”



tom.zytaruk@surreynowleader.com

Like us on Facebook and follow Tom on Twitter

CoronavirusSurrey

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Vernon's 28 Street will be closed between 41 and 39 Avenues from 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 22, 2020. (Black Press file photo)
Detour in effect on 31st Street in Vernon

Motorists to face small detour to avoid sanitary line work

Area resident Shandel Dyck submitted a photo of a police situation in a mobile home park in Lumby Oct. 26, 2020. She said she saw officers with their guns drawn as they surrounded a suspect unit. (Shandel Dyck - Contributed)
UPDATE: Neighbouring weapons threat puts Lumby school on lock down

Further details released on morning excitement near elementary school

More than 6,000 people attended the popular Downtown Vernon Association summer concert series known as Civic Sounds. (Peter Solymosi)
Vernon organization requests $20K to bring back park-based fun

Downtown Vernon Association seeks funding for 2021 programming

Comedian Mike Delamont will take the stage at the Vernon and District Performing Arts Centre for two socially-distanced shows Nov. 14 at 5:40 and 8 p.m. (Contributed)
Comedy returns to Vernon’s stage amid COVID-19

Cabaret-style shows let audience in on the live action once again

The 100 Radon Test Kit Challenge targets municipalities across Canada where radon testing has been limited, but where there is a potential for homes to have elevated radon levels. Vernon is participating. (Image contributed)
Vernon takes on Radon Challenge

200 free radon testing kits are up for grabs as part of the third annual challenge to test for gas

FILE – Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry provides the latest update on the COVID-19 pandemic in the province during a press conference in the press theatre at Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Thursday, October 22, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. shatters COVID-19 records with 817 weekend cases; masks now expected indoors

Three people have died over the past three reporting periods

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Kelowna Secondary School. (SD23 photo)
Second case of COVID-19 confirmed at Kelowna Secondary School

Interior Health has confirmed the new case is unrelated to the one announced Sunday

The Stuart Park ice rink in January 2020. (Michael Rodriguez - Capital News)
Popular Kelowna outdoor ice rink will open amid COVID-19 pandemic

City council approved COVID-related changes to the Stuart Park ice rink’s operations

A nurse performs a test on a patient at a drive-in COVID-19 clinic in Montreal, on Wednesday, October 21, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
Interior Health sees 31 new cases of COVID-19 over record-breaking weekend

Eighty-six cases remain active and one person is hospitalized with the virus

Salmon Arm RCMP responded to a seven-vehicle chain reaction collision early Monday morning, Oct. 26. (File photo)
One person injured in seven-vehicle chain-reaction collision in Salmon Arm

Snow packed to ice, speed contributing factors behind collisions

RCMP responded to a single-vehicle collision on Highway 1 east of Salmon Arm early Monday, Oct. 26, 2020. (File photo)
Salmon Arm man killed in collision on Highway 1

RCMP say slippery road conditions contributing factor behind collision

Jordan Naterer, 25, was last seen Saturday Oct. 10. He planned a hike in the Manning Park area, and has not been seen since. Photo Facebook.
Parents not giving up, after official search for Manning Park hiker suspended again

‘We are determined, but eventually the money is going to run out.’

Most Read