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

Pretivm Resources reports fatality at Brucejack mine

The isolated incident occurred last Friday, and the employee passed away on Sunday in hospital

Smithers man leaves $1 million to children’s hospital

Jim Bolster wanted to help out children with health problems like his own

QUIZ: How much do you know about British Columbia?

On this B.C. Day long weekend, put your knowledge of our province to the test

New ownership resurrects BV Taxi

The new owners expect to be taking fares by mid-August

Tahltan Nation closes hunting and recreational activity access points

The remote and vulnerable territory has limited medical capacity

B.C. records 146 new COVID-19 cases through long weekend

More that 28 people tested positive for the virus each day since Friday

Canucks tame Minnesota Wild 4-3 to even NHL qualifying series

J.T. Miller leads Vancouver with goal and an assist

COVID-19 vaccine efforts provide hope but no silver bullet to stop pandemic: Tam

There are more than two dozen vaccines for COVID-19 in clinical trials around the world

Two people die in propane heated outdoor shower near Princeton

Couple was attending a long weekend gathering

Study shines light on what makes LGBTQ+ youth feel safe in a community

The study goes beyond looking at school or family supports

Alberta to require masks at schools this fall, but still no mandate in B.C.

B.C. students are also set to return to classrooms in September

B.C. to allow customers to buy cannabis online for in-store pickup at private shops

Age verification will still be required inside the store

30% of British Columbians would ‘wait and see’ before taking COVID vaccine: poll

Some are concerned about side effects, while others don’t think the virus is a big deal

Don’t leave your hand sanitizer in the sun and other tips to stay COVID safe this summer

Being mindful of staying outside and keeping hand sanitizer, sunscreen out of the sun recommended

Most Read