B.C. NDP leader John Horgan released his full platform for the Oct. 24 B.C. election with a promise to send out further COVID-19 relief payments of up to $1,000 per family, increasing a record deficit further to do it.
Horgan said Oct. 6 he came up with the idea of direct payments after the election was called, rather than delaying part of the province’s $5 billion aid package for a snap election call.
“We’re not throwing money just to buy votes,” Horgan said. “We believe this puts the stimulus in the hands of the people who need it the most.”
The direct payments are to be available up to household incomes of $125,000, and individual incomes up to $62,500. They will cost $1.4 billion, and along with rent assistance and other promises they are estimated to bring the province’s deficit up to about $15 billion for the year.
“We recognize that when this is over we’re going to have to dig out from underneath it,” Horgan said.
The platform contains 154 commitments, most of them already announced. New ones include an income-tested rent supplement, to replace the 2017 payment that didn’t materialize, and making transit free for children under 12. Small businesses struggling to survive in the COVID-19 pandemic are promised $300 million in recovery grants and a temporary removal of provincial sales tax for eligible machinery and equipment.
The timing of the surprise election has Horgan attempting to explain why support programs for struggling tourism and other businesses aren’t likely to begin until the new year. Business groups have been saying for months that they need to survive long enough to receive them.
B.C. Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson said the election call has made a bad situation worse.
“If you’ve been in a business with next to no revenue so far in 2020, and you’re told you’ll get maybe a consultation process in January, chances are you’re just going to pack it in,” Wilkinson said Oct. 5. “The NDP have completely failed the tourism and hospitality business in British Columbia by stringing them along until late September and then calling an election that blocks any relief for them.”