B.C.’s COVID-19 recovery budget arrives with some of the strictest pandemic restrictions on travel and dining still in place, with a promise to carry on existing programs and support major attractions when travel resumes.
While there are few new initiatives in Tuesday’s budget, Finance Minister Selina Robinson said contingency funds are in place to extend support for businesses who found out last week that travel, dining and indoor fitness are restricted for another five weeks, to after the May long weekend. The initial COVID-19 “circuit breaker” restrictions put in place at the end of March were followed by a grant program for up to $10,000 to assist 14,000 restaurants, bars, breweries, wineries, gyms and fitness centres, and Robinson said work is underway to extend the program.
“We are continuing to identify how to best meet the needs of those particular businesses, and there will be more to say in the days ahead around that,” Robinson told reporters April 20.
The budget includes $100 million over three years to support tourism recovery, “including support for major anchor attractions that help make British Columbia such a unique destination,” the finance ministry said in a statement. Another $20 million is available for community destination development grants for projects such as trails and airport improvements.
The Greater Vancouver Board of Trade gave the budget a ‘B’ for economic recovery, with the private sector lagging the growing government sector in job growth.
“Over one year into the pandemic, the government primarily re-announced measures from their StrongerBC plan, announced last fall,” the board said in a statement. “There were no measures announced in response to the public health orders announced this week but significant amounts of funding in the budget remain unallocated.”
CEO Bridgitte Anderson praised Robinson’s budget for coming through the pandemic in better shape than some jurisdictions, with contingency funds to carry on supports.
“However, we are still striving for a post-pandemic vision for the economy that attracts investment, creates good jobs and promotes opportunity,” Anderson said. “It’s not clear this budget puts B.C. on a fast track to thrive in an increasingly competitive world.”