Economic Aid: The provincial government’s first steps in providing financial relief to individuals and businesses include $5 billion in income supports, tax relief, and direct funding for people, businesses and services. The plan dedicates $2.8 billion to help people and fund the services they need to weather the crisis, and $2.2 billion to provide relief to businesses. The province is also deferring payments on Employers Health Tax, Carbon Tax and the Provincial Sales Tax until September 30, 2020. The scheduled April 1 increase to the provincial carbon tax, as well as the new provincial sales tax registration requirements on e-commerce and the implementation of PST on sweetened carbonated drinks, will be delayed and their timing review by September 30, 2020.
Premier John Horgan introduced a new temporary rental supplement to support households by offering up to $500 a month towards rent. The province is also halting evictions and freezing rents. More details here.
Closures / Restrictions: By order of the provincial health officer, has shut down nightclubs, libraries, playgrounds, and personal service establishments (salons, spas, etc.). Gatherings of more than 50 people are banned. The mandate orders all restaurants in the province to move to take-out only, businesses that remain open, including grocery stores and pharmacies have been instructed to take additional measures to ensure adequate social distancing.
British Columbia Parks suspended services and closed faculties at all but four provincial parks in order to discourage people from getting outside in groups. The temporary measures affect marine parks, visitor centres, nature houses, playgrounds, washrooms and day-use facilities. Visitors are still able to use trails but are responsible for their own safety. Mount Seymour, Cypress, Miracle Beach and Wells Gray provincial parks remain open, with some restrictions.
British Columbia’s Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General, Mike Farnworth announced using extraordinary powers under the Emergency Program Act, to ensure a coordinated response to COVID-19 across all levels of government for the duration of the provincial emergency. The measures include:
- Supply chain: Establishing a new Provincial Supply Chain Coordination Unit to co-ordinate goods and services distribution; taking a more active role in co-ordinating essential goods and services movement by land, air, marine and rail; and suspending any bylaws that restrict goods delivery at any time of day.
- Protecting consumers: Banning the secondary resale of food, medical supplies, personal protective equipment, cleaning and other essential supplies; and restricting quantities of items purchased at point of sale.
- Enforcement: Enabling municipal bylaw officers to support enforcement of the provincial health officer’s orders for business closures and gatherings, in line with offences under the Public Health Act.
- Travel: Ensuring all passenger and car-ferry services provide minimum service levels and priority access for residents, and essential goods and workers.
- Protecting B.C.’s most vulnerable: Making it easier to support critical services for vulnerable people, like food banks and shelters.
- Co-ordination: Suspending local states of emergency specific to the COVID-19 pandemic, except for the City of Vancouver; giving municipal councils the ability to hold more flexible meetings to expedite decisions; and co-ordinating potential use of local publicly owned facilities, like community centres, for self-isolation, testing, medical care, warehousing and distribution.
Under the Emergency Program Act, British Columbia’s Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General has suspended the limitation periods to commence court proceedings in the province. In addition, the statutory decision-makers have been provided discretion to waive, suspend or extend time periods related to the powers. The order applies during the current state of emergency, including any extension of the state of emergency.