Nearly $2B coming from federal government to help B.C.'s COVID-19 restart plan: Horgan
VANCOUVER -- B.C.'s premier announced nearly $2 billion is coming from the federal government to support the province's restart plan amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
John Horgan also announced a "50-50" partnership with the federal government to help support public transit in the province.
Horgan noted there has been a "drastic decline" in ridership during the pandemic, but numbers have improved as the province moved from Phase 2 to Phase 3 of its restart plan.
"But the fare box has been hit hard. Revenues from BC Transit, revenues for TransLink have fallen off a cliff," he said. "Having the support of the federal government as 50-50 partners as we rebuild ridership and work with municipal partners is critically important."
Every dollar the federal government sends to B.C., the provincial government will match, with funds going to TransLink in the Lower Mainland and BC Transit across the province.
"We anticipate we're going to be needing in the neighbourhood of $600 million to get back on track," he said, adding the province would work with transit agencies to ensure they "get the dollars right."
Speaking about the $19 billion deal reached between the federal government and the provinces and territories, Horgan said he's "particularly proud" of B.C.'s push for a nationally funded paid sick leave program.
"I'm grateful that a Canada-wide approach to a Canadian challenge has been met, not just with enthusiasm but with a commitment to go further if required," he said.
Horgan added through discussions with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland, who were "early adherents" to the idea, they were able to get the idea "across the line."
"That's $1.1 billion to make sure that people don't go to work sick," he said, adding the program would be nationally funded and coordinated.
Horgan also did not rule out a tax holiday for businesses, saying the additional federal assistance makes it "a consideration."
"We're not closing any doors at this point, and we're (in the) early days of Phase 3," he said. "We're looking at other initiatives to keep things going."
An announcement from the federal government on the wage subsidy may also be forthcoming, Horgan added.
"We're going to continue to press the federal government to keep these programs going for as long as they possibly can so that we can get to a place where can stand on our own two feet," he said.
Trudeau announced the federal support plan Wednesday, and said the funds would help communities prepare for a possible second wave of COVID-19 and help in economic recovery from the pandemic.
The funds would also go towards boosting testing capabilities and stockpiling personal protective equipment.
The funding announcement comes days after Finance Minister Carole James revealed B.C. could face a $12.5 billion deficit due to significant revenue losses and increased spending during the pandemic.
The premier has seen high approval ratings during the pandemic, with a 17-point increase compared to last November, according to a recent survey conducted by Insights West.
"These approval ratings could translate into a landslide victory for Horgan when we go to the polls in May of 2021," Insights West's analysis of the results says.
With files from CTV News Vancouver's Alyse Kotyk and CTVNews.ca's Sarah Turnbull
Watch an American Sign Language translation of the news conference on the provincial government's YouTube page.