March 24th, 2020
Column - From the Hill
The COVID-19 crisis continues to deepen around the world, across Canada and throughout British Columbia. We are at a critical time in the progress of the pandemic where we can all make a huge difference—by staying home and avoiding close contact with our friends, neighbours and other community members. These actions may be difficult, but as Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry has said, they are “not optional”--they will literally save lives.
I want to thank all of you who are doing what you can to “flatten the curve” by staying home. And I want to thank all the health care workers who are working every day, putting their lives at risk to make sure our hospitals and clinics are functioning smoothly. Whether you are a nurse, a doctor, a midwife, a paramedic, a cleaner, a receptionist, you have my thanks.
Here are some of the provincial health demands and guidelines:
- Keep at least 2 metres from others
- Stay home as much as possible, do not visit with friends (call them instead!)
- It’s okay to go outside for fresh air and exercise, but stay away from others
- If you are returning home from outside Canada, you must self-isolate for 14 days. Stay at home, do not visit friends or family. Have groceries and other necessities delivered.
- Self-isolate in your home if you are sick, even if it is not COVID-19
- Choose virtual health care services whenever available, physicians will be compensated.
- Physician notes are NOT required for prescription refills by pharmacists.
- Dentists should provide emergency services only.
These self-isolation measures are absolutely essential but are having a huge impact on our economy, and I’m not just talking about the obvious effects of the stock market crash and the collapse in oil prices. Local hotels are empty, restaurants are closed. Many scheduled air services in the South Okanagan and West Kootenay are stopping as of April 1. Orchards, vineyards and nurseries are waiting for seasonal workers to arrive from Mexico, but travel bans have thrown up barriers to that. Many small businesses and self-employed people have seen work dry up simply because no-one is making long-term decisions, few people are shopping, projects are being put on hold.
The federal government has put out a package of supports for workers and businesses affected by this crisis. Here are a few highlights; to get details please go to my website Richard.Cannings.ndp.ca:
- Emergency Support Benefit for workers not eligible for Employment Insurance (EI) and who are facing unemployment, including self-employed people (effective April 1)
- Emergency Care Benefit for workers, including the self-employed, who do not qualify for paid sick leave or EI and have to stay home (effective April 1)
- One-week waiting period for EI benefits waived.
- Wage subsidy of 10% for small businesses and non-profit organizations
- Boost to Canada Child Benefit and GST subsidy for low-income families.
- Business Credit Availability Program to provide emergency loans to businesses.
- Tax Return filing due date deferred to June 1 and payments owed deferred to August 31
In addition, the provincial government has promised relief for renters facing eviction if they can’t afford to pay their rent due to this crisis.
The NDP supports the federal initiatives put forward by the government but feels they are inadequate. We are asking for immediate help through various means including these issues:
- The 10% wage subsidy is completely inadequate and needs to be raised to 75% for affected businesses as other countries have done
- The EI system is complicated in both registration and delivery; to give people the help they need right now, the government should send all Canadians a cheque for $2000 to get them through the rest of this month.
My constituency offices are working hard to help people but are closed to walk-in traffic. Please contact them through email at Richard.Cannings@parl.gc.ca or by phone at 250-770-4480 (Penticton) or 250-365-2792 (Castlegar) if you need further information