As British Columbians sift through information about the impacts of COVID-19 on the government’s finances, one thing is for certain: this pandemic continues to provoke extremes.
On the day Finance Minister Carol James announced a $12.5 billion deficit, the combined effect of an economic meltdown and $6.26 billion in supports to date, a polling company released details of a huge jump in approval ratings for how the B.C. government has stick-handled the pandemic.
Meanwhile, the BC Liberals are weighing in with a hefty criticism of the government’s economic recovery plan, and trying to get their voices heard above the fray.
In a press release issued today Wednesday, Liberal Leader Andrew Wilkinson stated that under the BC NDP-government’s watch, the province has amassed the largest deficit in British Columbia’s modern history.
He contends that this year’s deficit has increased by 27.6%, or $2,643 for every British Columbian, while household incomes are estimated to fall by approximately 3.9% in 2020.
James, however, maintains that B.C.’s safe restart plan is “creating signs of hope for our economy as consumer confidence increases.”
Wilkinsons argues the economic recovery plan is lacking because “there will be no change in the government spending priorities” and the strategy is “simply unsustainable.”
Still, the Insights West poll suggests the government has got a lot of wriggle room in its appeal to British Columbians, noting that the BC NDP has approved its rating during the pandemic, with Premier Horgan himself ratcheting up his approval rating by 17% to 68%, “a higher level higher than for any political leader in B.C. since tracking began 8 years ago.”
Meanwhile, Insights West said its online poll — which ran from June 24-28 among 830 B.C. residents — shows opposition parties are having a difficult time catching the attention of B.C. voters.
The poll found Wilkinson’s approval rating has dropped five points since November to 30%. Interim Green leader Adam Olsen has made his debut at a 29% approval rating — the lowest of any Green leader since the 2017 election, and 44% of B.C. residents don’t know enough about him to provide a rating. Trevor Bolin from the BC Conservative Party, meanwhile, has an 18% approval rating, but similarly, 49% of British Columbians didn’t know enough about him to provide a rating.
Insights Wests notes that approval of the government’s response to the pandemic has improved its ratings overall.
For example, 85% think it has done a good job on combating COVID-19, 84% for providing info about the pandemic, 79% for phase 2 and phase 3 re-opening of the economy, and 69% for the financial support for people impacted from COVID-19.
However, a closer reading shows a dip in areas where B.C. residents are “typically more negative than positive towards the BC NDP’s handling of certain issues, such as housing and affordability, down nine points, and homelessness down 13%.