Throne speech highlights actions to protect health, livelihoods

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Today’s speech from the throne focused on the immediate actions government is taking to protect British Columbians’ health and livelihoods from the threat of COVID-19.

The speech arrived at a time when new treatments and vaccines herald better days ahead, but the current wave of COVID-19 continues to pose urgent challenges in the short term.

“When the pandemic hit our province last spring, we promised British Columbians we would be there for them, for as long as it takes to recover,” said Premier John Horgan. “That promise stands. We will continue to listen to public health officials, help those on the front lines, and support families and businesses.”

The steps taken so far to address the threat of COVID-19 have saved lives. In the months ahead, government will build on the measures already in place. Some initiatives will be extended or expanded, and new ones launched.

First and foremost, government will help people, communities and businesses to implement whatever public-health protections are necessary to address outbreaks.

Those supports include a new Recovery Benefit, which will be rolled out by the end of the year. Families with a combined household income of less than $125,000 per year will be eligible to receive $1,000; families earning above that, up to $170,000, will receive payments on a sliding scale. Individuals earning less than $62,000 a year will be eligible for $500, with those earning up to $87,000 eligible for a payment on a sliding scale.

The BC Recovery Benefit will give people some financial help during a hard time, while benefiting the local economy.

Preparations are underway to ensure that when a vaccine is available, it will be distributed to all British Columbians as quickly and safely as possible, beginning with those most at risk.

Key investments in health care will allow more patients to receive treatment at home, reduce wait times, and train and hire more doctors and nurses.

Government will also take significant steps to assist small- and medium-sized businesses in weathering the economic storm caused by COVID-19. New tax measures will reward businesses for hiring, and help them grow and become more productive by making it easier for them to invest in equipment and machinery.

Focusing now on beating the virus will allow British Columbia to move as quickly as possible to address the economic recovery and its broader priorities: investing in people, strengthening communities, and supporting jobs and growth in a clean-energy future. Government’s plans along these themes will be set out in more detail in a new speech from the throne in the spring.

“We will continue to do everything we can to keep people safe and healthy through this pandemic, as we’re focused on recovering from this crisis in a way that supports everyone in B.C.,” Premier Horgan said.