BC COVID-19 response platforms, explained

In early March this year, the NDP announced the BC Restart Plan, the province’s phased set of guidelines for mitigating the impacts of COVID-19. So far, the NDP government has been helming the province’s pandemic response, but the upcoming election has led each of the major parties to establish its own COVID-19 plan that they feel best aligns with the values of the province.

British Columbians consider the COVID-19 response to be their top issue when deciding who to vote for this upcoming election.

Currently, BC is in phase 3 of the Restart Plan. This phase’s precautions include keeping your social bubble limited to those in your household and a few others, isolating when you’re sick, keeping two metres from those outside of your bubble and establishing your own threat model if you or someone you’re close with is at greater risk of experiencing severe symptoms of COVID-19.

This phase has reopened K–12 in-person classes with restrictions, limited all gatherings to a maximum of 50 people at a time and while it originally reopened nightclubs and banquet halls, the government has since ordered them to close due to their high transmission rates.

In March, the NDP also put the COVID-19 Action Plan into effect. The party’s platform for the 2020 election, for the most part, expands on what the Action Plan has already put into place. Over the course of the past eight months, the NDP government invested over $8 billion in services that included a $1,000 emergency benefit for workers, temporary rent relief and a doubling of the climate action tax credit.

If re-elected, the NDP promises to provide a one-time BC Recovery Benefit of $1,000 to families with household incomes under $125,000 annually and $500 to single people earning less than $62,000 annually. It would also freeze rents until the end of 2021 and provide free COVID-19 vaccines to all British Columbians when the vaccine is available.

Economic recovery

This September, the NDP enacted the BC Economic Recovery Plan to help individuals, businesses and communities recover from the impacts of COVID-19. The plan includes hiring 7,000 front-line healthcare workers and investing in short-term training for those who want to move into currently high-demand fields such as human-service positions.

The recovery plan would also introduce business recovery grants for approximately 15,000 businesses, a temporary 100 per cent PST rebate on certain machinery and equipment and invest $19-million to assist small communities support their tourism infrastructure.

While NDP leader John Horgan stated that the late roll-out for the economic plan was to ensure the NDP “got it right,” BC Liberal Party leader Andrew Wilkinson criticized the delayed response during the BC leaders’ debate.

“Every other province in Canada rolled out their emergency relief package in June or July,” said Wilkinson. “You dragged it out until three days before the election because you thought it would serve your interests.”

The BC Liberal Party’s COVID-19 response platform promises action within the first 60 days of taking office. This ranges from implementing a new Economic Response Plan and launching an independent investigation into the province’s COVID-19 response within long-term care and assisted living homes.

The BC Liberals also promise to establish a fair tax commission to immediately review all provincial taxes and recommend which should be adjusted or eliminated to “most effectively fuel economic recovery.”

One of the most controversial pillars of the BC Liberals’ economic response is their plan to scrap the current seven per cent PST for a year, before lowering it to three per cent until the economy has recovered. This is projected to deduct $10 billion from provincial coffers.

“After 3.5 years in opposition, the best idea the BC Liberals can come up with is a sweeping, antiquated tax cut. This shows an astounding lack of imagination,” said BC Green Party leader Sonia Furstenau in a media release shortly after the promise was announced.

“During their 16 years in government the BC Liberals made countless cuts to vital social services that people rely on everyday,” she said. “We have seen how service cuts simply create more costly social and economic problems. We need to invest in our people and in our future.”

The Greens’ platform takes a holistic approach, with almost the entirety of the platform marketed as part of their COVID-19 response. The party combines elements of its pandemic and climate crisis responses into investments for building sustainable, liveable communities.

Some of their platform points include support for small business rent payments through the winter, a new grant to assist renters and ending the privatization of long-term seniors’ care. Their economic recovery plan nestles their climate response plan at its centre, promising $1.5 billion in support for business innovation and sustainable jobs, and the implementation of a just transition program for workers in oil and gas toward more sustainable jobs in a clean economy.

“The pandemic has closed our social networks and cancelled our travel plans. People are using outdoor spaces as one of the only areas where we can socialize while adhering to social distancing guidelines,” said Furstenau in a media release.

“As we recover from COVID-19, we need to think about how we can build stronger communities.”