B.C. finance minister, MLAs host townhall on province's economic recovery

As British Columbia moves forward and slowly attempts to reopen its economy, the best way to avoid a dip backwards is by following the advice of health authorities, according to Finance Minister Carole James.

James, along with North Vancouver-Lonsdale MLA Bowinn Ma and Maple Ridge-Mission MLA Bob D’Eith, hosted a virtual townhall Thursday afternoon where they discussed suggestions and answered questions from the public about the province’s economic future as it moves into Phase 3 of its COVID-19 restart plan.

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“I’ve said often that the best thing we can do for economic recovery is follow Dr. Bonnie Henry and follow Minister [Adrian] Dix’s direction,” said James, in response to a question on how a potential second wave of the virus this fall could curb B.C.’s economic restart and how the province would ensure workers were protected. “If we do that safely, we make sure we continue to bend the curve, if we make sure to continue to see the successes we’re having now, that will be the best tool for economic recovery.”

The province announced its Phase 3 reopening this week, which included provisions allowing for non-essential travel within the province as well as reopening of hotels, the film industry and some entertainment spaces such as movie theatres.

James, who is an MLA for Victoria, said she was well aware of how the virus had already affected her city’s tourism industry, as well as the province as a whole.

“I see where the tourists aren’t right now, and I see the impact on our city. It’s going to be a very tough one, because it’s going to be awhile before we see international travel pick up again,” she said.

In the short term, with non-essential travel now allowed in B.C., James advised British Columbians to support their communities by getting out and exploring their own province this summer.

“My encouragement to everyone is to make sure you’re looking at opportunities to vacation in British Columbia. Take advantage of this time to encourage your family and others to travel local,” she said.

While the pandemic has certainly affected all facets of B.C.’s economy – youth employment, the rental market and child care, for example – it’s also provided an opportunity to look at how the economy can be reshaped to better serve people as we come out of it, according to James, which could mean anything from investing in infrastructure to a green recovery focused on climate change.

The B.C. government is aiming for several years of budget deficits as it contends with the economic fallout from the virus.

James encouraged British Columbians to fill out the government’s online economic recovery survey, available until July 21, which will ask questions about how COVID-19 has changed people’s communities and seeks input on the best way to move forward with a recovery plan.

Click here to take the survey.

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