MLAs will return to their hybrid chamber proceedings next Monday, July 20, 2020 at 10:00 am.
Federal government, provinces agree to $19-billion ‘safe restart’ funding package
B.C. is receiving over $2 billion from the federal government as part of a new agreement reached between the provinces and Ottawa on Thursday.
Safe Restart Agreement
made between Prime Minister Trudeau and Canada’s premiers is designed to provide provinces and territories with the means to restart their economies safely and to prepare for a possible second wave. The agreement comes after several weeks of negotiations between the two levels of government.
Premier Horgan called the federal funding “critically important” to B.C.’s restart efforts, and commended the cooperation shown by all parties.
We all came to the table with a basket full of problems and we all decided we would work collectively on those problems," Premier Horgan told reporters. "I think this is unprecedented, quite frankly."
As part of the
Safe Restart Agreement
, each province and territory will receive a share of the $19 billion in a per capita allocation, with B.C. set to receive just over $2 billion.
Ottawa will provide direct transfers to provinces and territories for
seven priority areas
, including $4.2 billion for enhanced COVID-19 testing, contact tracing and data management; $4.5 billion for the purchase of personal protective equipment (PPE) for front line and essential workers; and $625 million to fund more childcare spaces. The federal package also includes support for transit and municipalities, to be provided in a 50/50 cost-share program with the provinces.
The provinces have a degree of flexibility
these seven spending envelopes, but funding will not be transferable between envelopes. For example, B.C. could not spend the entirety of its $2-billion allocation on childcare.
Another one of the seven funding envelopes is a national sick leave policy, for which Premier Horgan takes some credit, alongside Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister and Yukon Premier Sandy Silver. The national sick leave program – which will provide 10 days of paid sick leave to those who don’t already have it through their employer – has an estimated cost of $1.1 billion. There are no further details on how this program will be carried out.
Overdose deaths in B.C. reach record-high for second month in a row
For the second month in a row, the BC Coroners Service has reported a record-breaking number of illicit drug overdose deaths in the province.
175 people in B.C. died of an overdose in Juune, up from the previous high of 171 in May. Prior to May 2020, the worst month on record in the province was December 2016, during which 161 lives were lost.
“For the second month in a row, this province has experienced the highest number of deaths ever as a result of illicit substances with 175 lives lost, leaving behind grief and frustration while this public health emergency carries on into its fifth year,” B.C. chief coroner Lisa Lapointe said.
“We know the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted people who use drugs, as it has all British Columbians. Access to key harm reduction services has been a challenge and our social networks are smaller.”
Minister of Mental Health and Addictions Judy Darcy said prior to COVID-19, there was a 36 per cent decrease year-over-year in overdose deaths.
"There was so much more to do to save more lives, but our plan and our collective efforts were making a difference," Minister Darcy said. "Now because of COVID-19, the drug supply has become more toxic than ever before — with tragic consequences.”
When asked about the overdose crisis on Thursday, Premier Horgan reiterated his support for the report by the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police that calls on Ottawa to decriminalize the simple possession of drugs. Dr. Bonnie Henry has also been calling for the decriminalization of illicit drug possession for many years.
Minister James releases first look into province's finances since COVID-19
On Tuesday, Minister of Finance Carole James presented an update on the province’s finances, showing for the first time the impact COVID-19 has had on B.C.’s books.
The provincial government is forecasting a $12.5-billion deficit, comprised of $6.31 billion in lost revenue (primarily PST, personal & corporate income tax, and Crown corporation net income loss), and $6.26 billion in pandemic response spending.
The province’s current projections predict a 3.9% drop in household income, and a 6.8% decline in the province’s real GDP in 2020.
Minister James reiterated that, despite the bleak financial projections released on. Tuesday, this is not the time to cut spending.
“Now is not the time to cut back on supports for businesses and people of British Columbia. The supports are critical for building back the province. We are not looking to pull back because it would not be good for economic recovery,” James said.
She also said the province does not anticipate any tax increases to deal with the financial crunch brought on by COVID-19.
You can read our detailed note on Tuesday’s fiscal update
. This includes data on the impact COVID-19 has had on the province’s employment levels, housing markets and consumer spending patterns, along with economic projections for the same areas of the economy for 2020 and into 2021.
B.C. appoints new Innovation Commissioner
On Friday afternoon, the provincial government appointed
as B.C.’s new Innovation Commissioner. Sinclair replaces Alan Winter, who left the role in February 2020. Sinclair has been appointed to a one-year term.
The Innovation Commissioner position was created in 2018 and is a component of the Confidence and Supply Agreement (CASA) the BCNDP has with the BC Green Party Caucus. In the role, Sinclair reports to Minister of Jobs, Economic Development and Competitiveness Michelle Mungall, and will work closely with the senior leadership in this Ministry to promote innovation across all sectors of the economy.
“I welcome Dr. Gerri Sinclair into her role as innovation commissioner. Gerri is a champion for the technology and innovation sector. She will serve our province well as we build a resilient, globally competitive economy that provides family-supporting jobs throughout the province,” said Minister Michelle Mungall.