COVID-19 economic recovery: B.C. spreads $1.5 billion across sectors, falls short on tourism request

The B.C. government on Thursday unveiled its wide-ranging economic recovery plan in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, with support for job retraining, a tax break for businesses, and funding for a new tourism task force.

The province said about 200,000 jobs will be protected in a plan that’s largely being seen as a potential election platform if Premier John Horgan decides to send voters to the polls this fall.

About $300 million will go toward small- and medium-sized business recovery grants, touted to help approximately 15,000 hard-hit businesses.

Another $470 million for a new provincial sales tax rebate on business investments in machinery and equipment, as well as a 15-per-cent refundable tax credit based on eligible new payroll.

More than 8,000 businesses in Metro Vancouver have closed since February, according to Statistics Canada, while the same region has lost 149,100 jobs. The unemployment rate has climbed to 11.6 per cent from 4.6 per cent before the pandemic.

But the $100 million targeted for the tourism sector falls far short of the $680 million the industry was asking for.

The task force, which has a $50-million budget, will develop recommendations on how the sector can be positioned for the 2021 season.

Local governments, First Nations and non-profits will also receive grants to build tourism infrastructure.

The province has committed $1.5 billion to economic recovery as part of the province’s initial $5-billion COVID-19 relief fund. It has also paired up with the federal government to provide an additional $1 billion for transit and municipalities.

A coalition representing B.C.’s struggling tourism industry had presented the province with a recovery stimulus proposal that would see the government give it $680 million from its $1.5-billion pool.

Other sectors receiving recovery funds include municipalities and transit ($1.62 billion — half from B.C., half from Ottawa), zero-emission commercial vehicles ($61 million), clean technology ($35 million), cycling and walking infrastructure ($17 million), wetlands conservation ($50 million), and wildfire prevention ($20 million).

NDP organizers have circled Oct. 24 and Nov. 7 as potential election dates.

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