British Columbia

B.C. earmarks $800 million in 2021 budget to help businesses recover from pandemic

B.C. Finance Minister Selina Robinson said B.C. is committed to helping struggling businesses through the pandemic and into a more prosperous future by earmarking $800 million for ongoing and new programs.

Province to spend $120M to help communities attract tourism once travel deemed safe

Restaurant in B.C. can only currently offer food service on outdoor patios. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

B.C. Finance Minister Selina Robinson said B.C. is committed to helping struggling businesses through the pandemic and into a more prosperous future by earmarking $800 million for ongoing and new programs.

"We want to make sure businesses are ready to open their doors up," said Robinson while presenting her 2021 budget, which includes $69 billion in potential spending and a $9.7 billion deficit.

The industry specific spending in this year's budget is an increase from last year, when $554 million was spent on grants, tax credits and supports to help industries hit hard by the pandemic — including tourism, arts and culture and the restaurant industry.

Finance Minister Selina Robinson presented her 2021 budget virtually from Victoria on Tuesday April 20, 2021. (Mike McArthur/CBC News)

Hardest hit sectors

The province said it has tailored new spending to help B.C. hardest hit sectors.

New funding for the tourism sector includes $100 million to help major attractions in B.C. better market themselves and be prepared to welcome visitors once travel bans are lifted.

The province will also spend $20 million for grants that communities can access to improve local tourism destinations, or upgrade infrastructure such as airports.

Restaurant grants

In addition, the province is setting aside $50 million for restaurants or hospitality businesses — some 14,000 of them — to apply for a circuit breaker business recovery grant.

B.C. has already spent nearly $60 million to help arts and culture organizations weather the pandemic, and the 2021 budget doubled funding for programs providing grants to construct new spaces, expand existing ones and purchase new equipment.

The arts infrastructure program is set to provide $6 million over three years.

Many of these programs had been previously announced by the government — but Robinson said the $3.25 billion in pandemic recovery funding would allow it to be flexible if additional assistance is needed. 

Not enough

Industry leaders said business owners in the province were hoping for a greater focus on the economy in this budget and more support.

"We didn't really see, other than the tourism money, any new money," said Samantha Howard with the Canadian Federation of Independent Business.

She is hopeful that the province will make adjustments as the year goes on, such as extending the circuit breaker grant, which is only available until June 4.

Bridgitte Anderson, president and CEO of the Greater Vancouver Board of Trade, said her members were looking to the province for more regulatory moves, such as tax reductions or other finance measures.

"And these are the kind of measures that really would spur long-term investment and increase our competitiveness in a post-pandemic world."

Much of the business recovery spending in the 2021 budget bolsters already running programs such as $195 million for the recovery grant program for small and medium sized businesses, which provides $10,000 to $30,000 to businesses that can show a 30 per cent revenue loss due to the pandemic.

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