As B.C. is battered by a fifth wave of the pandemic, intense winter storms, and growing uncertainty, people are looking to government for leadership and support.
Unfortunately,the NDP seems reluctant to provide the relief or reassurance that British Columbians desperately need after two immensely difficult years. Perhaps the clearest example of this is our government’s approach to assisting those businesses that have had to close because of provincial health orders. That is to say, their complete lack of assistance during this most recent round of closures.
Throughout the pandemic, the NDP has been too slow to act, doing only the bare minimum to support small businesses and people impacted by COVID-19 restrictions. This trend continued with their December announcement that closed gyms, bars, and event venues due to the rapidly rising number of COVID-19 cases. When they did announce limited supports for these businesses on Dec. 23, all they gave were vague promises to open applications in early January, then seemingly checked out for the rest of the year.
Now we’re well into the month and, as of earlier this week, there is still no word on when applications will open. What is the reason for this delay? The government has given no solid explanation, but it’s clear businesses won’t see a single penny of relief before the restrictions are set to expire on Jan. 18, nearly a month after they were announced. That’s simply not good enough.
I have heard from far too many businesses in the Cariboo-Chilcotin that are on the brink of bankruptcy. They don’t have the money to pay for this month’s rent, let alone lost wages for employees, heating and utilities, and all the other costs that come with owning a business. And if they can make it through these weeks until the grant money comes through, it’s more than likely it will barely scratch the surface of these costs.
The assistance provided is based on how many employees the business has, not its costs or lost revenue. For a business that employs fewer than five people, the most they can receive is $2,000, regardless of the fact their monthly rent alone may be well above this amount.
It’s obvious this relief grant comes nowhere close to meeting the needs of businesses and their employees. The government must expand this program, providing better support and increasing eligibility to help to those businesses barely hanging on, such as the events sector, event planners, and travel agents.
The NDP must realize, and quickly, that it needs to do more for businesses and individuals. People’s livelihoods depend on it.