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FORT ST. JOHN, B.C. – As we kick off a new year, our communities are once again tackling the rising challenges of the latest wave of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Omicron variant has brought with it a new set of restrictions to our province, limiting travel, threatening businesses, and adding further challenges to our communities that have already faced so much over the last two years.

While we recognize the importance of taking some measures to ensure our communities stay safe and our healthcare system isn’t overwhelmed, the NDP government continues its trend of providing vague plans and guidelines, hiding or revising COVID information, and withholding vital COVID supports and resources. These failures are leaving our businesses without the financial supports they need and our schools and public places without many of the tools that would help protect people.

Furthermore, as in the past, some things just don’t make sense. One such order is the closing of all gyms. Last week I wrote the minister and PHO about reversing this decision. I followed this request up on a phone call this week. Gyms are extremely important to people’s mental and physical well-being, especially here in the north where we can’t just go for a walk!

As the new restrictions put thousands of businesses at risk and health authorities warn of severe staffing shortages due to sick employees, the NDP have been far too slow to roll out their promised COVID relief funding and business supports. Although they announced a $10 million relief grant program on December 23, 2021, for businesses shut down by new public health restrictions, they still haven’t started accepting applications nearly two weeks later. This government already had a template for how supports could be rolled out from the Business Recovery Grants it launched last year. To leave our businesses without any assistance for so long, when so many are barely hanging, on is completely unacceptable.

And it is not just financial supports that this government is withholding from British Columbians. Despite calls for broader and more widespread use of rapid tests to keep our homes, schools, businesses, and communities safe, the NDP continues to sit on a stockpile of more than a million unused rapid tests. More than 80 million tests have been sent out to the provinces, with many more coming from Ottawa in the coming weeks, and B.C. is significantly behind other provinces who have used their rapid tests to much greater success.

We will overcome this wave the same way we have all others, but this government desperately needs to fill in some of the huge gaps it has left in our COVID response. It’s time the NDP used every tool at our disposal to get financial supports to our businesses and rapid tests and PPE to our communities—as well as give British Columbians the resources and assurances they need to endure this latest wave and plan for brighter days.

By Dan Davies, MLA for Peace River North

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