I want to start by thanking our partners in the creative sector for the steps you’ve taken to help flatten the curve and put people’s health and safety first.
As Premier John Horgan announced yesterday, our government has a plan to restart economic activity, starting mid-May. B.C.’s Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry has said the need for physical distancing will continue for some time. B.C.’s Restart Plan is a way to gradually allow for more social and economic activity, while closely monitoring health information to minimize the risk to the public. This isn’t a return to normal, but it’s a hopeful, careful step toward a real recovery for all of us.
The motion picture industry is a vital part of B.C.’s economy. We’re proud to be ‘Hollywood North’ - North America’s third largest film and TV hub. Our goal under our restart plan is to expedite the return of a thriving film and tv sector and for British Columbia to remain a national leader. Under our plan, we are confident that the motion picture industry will be able to restart under enhanced protocols in Phase 3 in June and July 2020. We welcome any part of the sector returning, contingent on the creation of operating guidelines that have been approved by WorkSafeBC and the PHO, including considerations for current quarantine protocols.
I know that sector planning is already underway. I want to thank all the organizations, unions and industry leaders for coming together and working on a re-start plan. The creative industries are unique, and I know you’re bringing innovative problem solving to the challenge of how to operate safely.
In recent weeks, the federal and provincial governments have introduced measures to help people and businesses. This began with the federal government’s initial response plan, and I am pleased to see they increased the wage subsidy to 75%. Our government acted quickly and introduced the $5-billion B.C. COVID-19 Action Plan. This includes extended tax deadlines, support for commercial property tax as well as targeted relief on hydro bills and ICBC payments and rental assistance.
One of the things industry leaders flagged early on was that some workers are still receiving royalty payments and small contracts, leaving them ineligible for the Canada Emergency Relief Benefit. I raised this issue to the federal government, and I’m pleased to see they expanded eligibility for this benefit to allow people to earn up to $1,000 per month in income. This provides some relief for people in the film industry who are still getting small contracts during the pandemic. And on May 1 we opened applications for the $1,000 BC Emergency Benefit for Workers, which is available to anyone receiving the Canada Emergency Response Benefit.
I’ll end by assuring you that B.C. is well-positioned globally. Our collective efforts to contain COVID-19 here in B.C. as well as the supportive programs we’ve put in place mean that we will be among the first jurisdictions in North America to be able to return to production.
As the nature of the pandemic shifts, we are taking our cues from health authorities and adjusting our response to the recommendations and orders from the provincial health officer. I am committed to keeping you informed at every step along the way.
Stay safe and stay well.
Minister of Tourism, Arts and Culture