Re-opening the economy

Re-opening the economy

Cariboo-Chilcotin MLA Donna Barnett’s column for the 100 Mile Free Press

Last week the BC Liberals called on the provincial government to work with Dr. Bonnie Henry to start opening the provincial economy on a region-by-region basis so that the places hardest hit by the pandemic, economically – but have the lowest infection rates – can safely begin to recover.

Opposition Leader Andrew Wilkinson (who is himself a medical doctor) argued that regionally-based, reopening plans with safety driving the decision-making process would point a solid path forward.

Wilkinson sent a letter to Premier Horgan asking government to look at lifting more restrictions in regions with lower case counts such as Vancouver Island, the Okanagan, the Kootenays, and right here in the North and Central Interior.

Working in conjunction with Dr. Bonnie Henry and her team, the idea is to get people back to work and bring in much-needed revenue for business sooner if it’s safe to do so.

COVID-19’s impact on all of B.C.’s major sectors is being felt deeply across the province, and right here at home in both forestry and in ranching.

Small businesses – who make up 98 per cent of B.C. businesses – are hurting the most and they need a boost, especially those in tourism.

Our region has already suffered heavily in the past few years from floods to wildfires to mill closures.

We had an astonishing 170,000 job losses in the month of April alone. Our unemployment rate has risen from five per cent to 13.5 per cent across the province. Finance minister Carole James recently confirmed that youth unemployment may be as high as 20 per cent. We know that it may be even worse here in our region.

People have stepped up and stayed home to help stop the spread of COVID-19, now they deserve some help in getting back on their feet.

When the Legislature reopens on June 22, I will be reminding the government that B.C. is much larger than the Lower Mainland.