B.C. Liberals recommend regional reopening strategy

B.C. Liberal Leader Andrew Wilkinson on Tuesday announced that he is recommending the government work with Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry to explore the possibility of a region-specific approach to safely accelerate reopening parts of the province with low case counts when it is safe to do so.

“It’s clear, based on the evidence, that some regions and industries have been hit harder than others across the province. It seems reasonable to at least consider tailored, regional reopening plans based on the specific case counts of each region,” said Wilkinson. “I’ve sent a letter to the Premier [John Horgan] today asking government to look at lifting more restrictions in regions with lower case counts such as Vancouver Island, the Okanagan, the Kootenays, and the North to get people back to work and bring in much-needed revenue for business sooner.”

He noted that COVID-19’s impact on all of B.C.’s major sectors is being felt deeply across the province, particularly in the area of tourism. Tourism operators, restaurants, and small business owners are all trying to figure out how to best navigate this unprecedented challenge. As we slowly begin to reopen our economy and ease some restrictions on travel, the BC Liberals believe a regional approach to reopening sectors, such as the tourism industry, makes sense as long as it can be done safely.

“Tourism, an integral part of our provincial economy which brings in about $20-billion in revenue and employs over 160,00 British Columbians, has especially struggled,” said Wilkinson. “We’re hopeful that government will seriously consider a regional approach that will help mitigate some of the social and economic impacts this pandemic has created.”

The consideration suggested in today’s letter to the Premier supplements the earlier calls from the BC Liberal Caucus for specific restaurant supports and broader economic actions such as temporary PST relief, a commercial rent relief plan, and the need for funding for businesses and non-profits to secure personal protective equipment, he pointed out.