Tourism operators devastated by wildfires

Barnett: Small businesses don’t need consultation; they need financial assistance

Cariboo-Chilcotin MLA Donna Barnett is fighting mad about Premier John Horgan’s lack of support for the people in rural British Columbia who have been devastated by this summer’s wildfires.

She says people, who have lost everything due to the wildfire season, don’t need more talking and consulting.

They need action, she says.

“Day in and day out, myself and my colleagues have been communicating with people.

“We know what they need. People need money.”

Barnett says tourism operators and small business operators need financial aid and nothing else will help them.

“A no-interest loan won’t help them.”

The former small business owner says people in a small business don’t recover when they have no business.

She says the government’s new wildfire recovery plan to hire people consult with people affected by the wildfire and work with municipal governments to prepare documents for MLAs to take to the provincial government might be great for long-term solutions, but it’s not doing anything for the people who are suffering now.

“I’m already taking documents to government. We need help and we need it now in the manner of financial aid.

“That’s why I think it would be [good] to have the provincial government pay all their property taxes for next year.”

Barnett says the government doesn’t need to hire somebody to go out and ask small business owners how things are going.

“We already know that!”

She says the government only needs to look at what happened to the tourism industry to understand what’s happening to small businesses.

“They’ve had road closures, smoke and evacuations. There was no stability at all for the tourism industry.”

The local MLA notes the tourism industry was one of the biggest losers this wildfire season.

“If you had a gas station, grocery store or clothing store, you were evacuated for two weeks and then you were open. Whereas tourism operators were hit all summer long.

“To me, let’s look at the tourism operators who have this huge impact and little or no income for their busiest months of the year – July and August. If you don’t make it in July and August, you don’t make it. So they are devastated.”

The NDP government could start with them because they need financial assistance, Barnett adds.

Noting the Minister of Tourism gave $200,000 to the Cariboo Chilcotin Coast Tourism Association, she says it’s her understanding the money is to promote the fact that tourism operations will be up-and-running next year.

“They can do all the studies in the world and have these make-work projects, but it’s not going to help the business keep their doors open. It’s not going to help them pay their mortgages and it’s not going to help them feed their children.”

Each small business can get $1,500 from Red Cross for loss of business, Barnett says, which may pay the mortgage for a month and maybe not.

“There’s many small businesses that won’t make it.”

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