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

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

The City of Duncan will implement a new pilot project targeting vandalism this spring. (File photo)
Duncan initiates pilot project to deal with graffiti

Project based on a successful one in Port Alberni

The victim of the homicide on Cowichan Lake Road early Monday morning was 17 years old, and was stabbed in the incident. (File photo)
Duncan homicide victim was 17 years old

RCMP report that teenager was stabbed

Activists from the Fairy Creek Blockades hold the injunction application notice which was submitted by logging company Teal Jones to the B.C. Supreme Court. The application, which asks to have blockaders removed from the sites that stop access to cut blocks, is set to be heard on March 4. (Photo contributed/Joshua Wright)
Activists hunker down to protect Fairy Creek near Port Renfrew from logging

Forest company Teal Cedar applies for injunction to remove seven-month-old blockades

It’s been almost a year since the last public performance inside the Chemainus Theatre. (Photo by Don Bodger)
Lead donors pledge $60,000 in matching campaign at the Chemainus Theatre

Perrys, Hiltons and Duncan Iron Works help to Bridge the Gap during COVID shutdown

Doug Routley is the chair of a special committee on reforming the Police Act. (File photo)
Routley selected chair of a special committee on reforming the Police Act

Nanaimo-North Cowichan MLA acknowledges there will be a lot of material to process

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

Older rental apartments are prime candidates for renovations, and could result in lost affordable housing stock. (Zoë Ducklow photo)
B.C.’s renoviction overhaul a good start, but won’t preserve affordable stock, lawyer says

And still no protection for people who can’t pay rent due to COVID-19

(Photo by Marissa Baecker/Shoot the Breeze)
B.C. WHL teams to hit the ice with Kelowna, Kamloops hub cities

Kelowna, Kamloops centres chosen to host B.C. WHL teams for 24-game regular season

(File photo)
RCMP arrest man after report of gun-toting threat-maker near Parksville schools

43-year-old man taken into custody; students at nearby schools were asked to stay inside

The machines are akin to ATMs and allow drug users at risk of overdose to get hydromorphone pills dispensed to them after their palm has been scanned to identify its unique vein pattern. (CANADIAN PRESS)
Feds dole out $3.5M for ‘vending machines’ to dispense safer opioids in B.C.

The machines are located in four cities across Canada, including Vancouver and Victoria

Kelowna’s lakefront visitor centre is one of 130 around the province. Tourism businesses have been hardest hit by COVID-19 restrictions on travel. (Destination B.C.)
Tourism, small business getting COVID-19 help, B.C. minister says

$300M grant program has delivered $50 million so far

The incident happened in downtown Castlegar. Photo: Betsy Kline
Castlegar teen recounts stabbing after stranger breaks into grandmother’s house

The unnamed teen survived a terrifying attack Feb. 21

Most Read