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Chamber responds to provincial budget

VERNON – There were few surprises in today’s provincial budget but the Greater Vernon Chamber of Commerce welcomes the government’s commitment to continue supporting businesses and communities. 

Finance Minister Selina Robinson tabled the 2021 provincial budget in the Legislature April 20.

“There is no question that the provincial government has provided significant support to B.C. businesses since the pandemic began more than a year ago and we appreciate the continued initiatives that will assist businesses cover basics such as wages, utilities and rent,” said Krystin Kempton, Greater Vernon Chamber president.

“The budget also acknowledges that some sectors have been hit hard by Covid-19, including an additional $100 million for tourism recovery. We will await the details of the program to see which businesses are eligible for funds and how the money can be spent.”

Recent health orders have forced restaurants and bars to only provide takeout or patio services and there appears to be no new supports for the sector in Budget 2021 except for an itemization of existing initiatives such as the Circuit Breaker Recovery Grant and allowing restaurants to purchase alcohol at wholesale liquor pricing.

“We are pleased to see that the budget provides funds for skills training as we regularly hear from businesses that are unable to attract workers. By providing opportunities for education to youth, the unemployed and under-employed, we can strengthen our economy and communities,” said Kempton.

“Another major challenge for businesses retaining and attracting staff is the high cost of housing so we want to know how the $2 billion for the HousingHub program will be rolled out and whether homes for middle-income families will be created?”

The Chamber welcomes $500 million being directed towards expanded mental health and substance use services as this will benefit individuals, families, employers and communities.

Not identified in the budget was funding for Greater Vernon’s cultural centre or an expansion of Ellison Provincial Park, and the Chamber will pursue those matters further with Harwinder Sandhu, Vernon-Monashee MLA.

B.C.’s forecast deficit for the 2021-22 fiscal year is $9.7 billion. Future deficits are forecast for $5.5 billion in 2022-23 and $4.3 billion in 2023-24. Balanced budgets may not occur for seven to nine years, according to the government.

“We must all be aware that the unprecedented level of government spending will eventually have to slow in the years to come if private investment is to flourish and create growth that benefits all British Columbians,” said Kempton.
 
FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT:    
Dan Proulx, General Manager   
Greater Vernon Chamber of Commerce
P: 250-545-0771              E: manager@vernonchamber.ca