Columbia River-Revelstoke MLA Doug Clovechok served as vice-chair of the B.C. legislature finance committee for 2020. (Hansard TV)

Columbia River-Revelstoke MLA Doug Clovechok served as vice-chair of the B.C. legislature finance committee for 2020. (Hansard TV)

COVID-19 makes broader online access urgent, B.C. MLAs say

Colleges, universities face reduced tuition revenue

The surge of internet service delivery in the COVID-19 pandemic has revealed gaps in affordable online access for many people in B.C., the legislature finance committee says.

The annual pre-budget consultation was itself conducted online for 2020, with participation higher than usual, said committee chair Bob D’Eith, MLA for Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows. The committee had 3,625 responses to an online survey of priorities for Finance Minister Carole James’ next budget, with 1,362 written and video submissions and 281 presentations, all delivered by video and phone conference during June.

“This year, we saw the highest level of participation in nearly 10 years, with British Columbians describing how the COVID-19 pandemic exposed gaps in supports and services and impacted groups differently,” D’Eith said in submitting the committee’s report. “The committee recognizes that the next budget is an opportunity to address these gaps and inequities and continue to make progress on reconciliation, diversity, inclusion and accessibility.”

Columbia River-Revelstoke MLA Doug Clovechok, the deputy chair, said online access is a significant challenge, particularly for rural and remote communities. The report notes that health care, education and work have become more dependent on digital networks, along with entertainment, community and family connections restricted by public health orders.

B.C. colleges and universities are making rapid shifts to online learning, as the public school system gears up for in-person studies with protective measures. They are also dealing with a the loss of tuition revenue as international and domestic students, with Camosun College and Okanagan College among those expecting staff cuts, and calling for the ability to use reserve funds to get through the pandemic.

RELATED: Premier warns parents to have ‘plan B’ for school

RELATED: B.C. breaks single-day record for COVID-19 cases

Canadian Parents for French B.C. and Yukon has joined opposition MLAs in calling for better access to remote learning.

“The availability of French immersion distance learning courses is close to zero,” executive director Glyn Lewis said Aug. 21. “Additionally, some parents are being forced to de-register from their local programs if they choose to home school.”

The finance committee made 124 recommendations for the next provincial budget, with the B.C. government dealing with a sudden record deficit for the current year estimated at $13.5 billion. The NDP government got unanimous consent in an emergency session this spring to borrow an additional $5 billion for pandemic relief and recovery programs, with $1.5 billion of that still to be allocated for business recovery in September.

MLAs on the all-party committee included Cariboo-Chilcotin MLA Donna Barnett, Langley East MLA Rich Coleman, Esquimalt-Metchosin MLA Mitzi Dean, Courtenay-Comox MLA Ronna-Rae Leonard and Powell River-Sunshine Coast MLA Nicholas Simons.


@tomfletcherbc
tfletcher@blackpress.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

BC legislatureCoronavirus

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Even though the CP Holiday Train is not running this year, CP has made donations to the food banks along its usual routes (including the one in Ashcroft), and will also be broadcasting a special live Holiday Train concert on Dec. 12. (Photo credit: Barbara Roden)
CP Holiday Train rolling into homes with a virtual concert

CP has made donations to all the food banks that would normally benefit from the annual event

A laboratory technician holds a dose of a COVID-19 novel coronavirus vaccine candidate that’s ready for trial on monkeys at the National Primate Research Center of Thailand. (Mladen Antonov - AFP)
Interior Health reports 66 new COVID-19 infections

570 cases are active; 18 in hospital

The wooden sign at the entrance to the parking lot at the Heritage Park in Ashcroft blew down in high winds on Oct. 10. Council has made an assessment of the park and its structures one of the priorities in its new strategic plan. (Photo credit: Barbara Roden)
Ashcroft council lays out strategic plan for next two years

Trails master plan, a second North Ashcroft reservoir, and the Heritage Park all on the list

Cache Creek Village office, date unknown. (Photo credit: Wendy Coomber)
Cache Creek to move to quarterly utility billing in new year

Council also discussed the possibility of heavy flooding in spring 2021

Lytton RCMP Sgt. Curtis Davis accepts a plaque from Patsy Weekley of the Lytton post office in Oct. 2018, to commemorate a first responders stamp from Canada Post. (Photo credit: Submitted)
Lytton RCMP sergeant says farewell as posting comes to an end

Sgt. Curtis Davis is transferring out of Lytton and is sad to be leaving the area

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates B.C.’s coronavirus situation at the legislature, Nov. 30, 2020. (B.C. government)
Hockey team brought COVID-19 back from Alberta, B.C. doctor says

Dr. Bonnie Henry pleads for out-of-province travel to stop

B.C. Premier John Horgan on a conference call with religious leaders from his B.C. legislature office, Nov. 18, 2020, informing them in-person church services are off until further notice. (B.C. government)
B.C. tourism relief coming soon, Premier John Horgan says

Industry leaders to report on their urgent needs next week

An RCMP cruiser looks on as a military search and rescue helicopter winds down near Bridesville, B.C. Tuesday, Dec. 1. Photo courtesy of RCMP Cpl. Jesse O’Donaghey
B.C. Mountie, suspect airlifted by Canadian Armed Forces from ravine after foot chase

Military aircraft were dispatched from Comox, B.C., say RCMP

An 18-year old male southern resident killer whale, J34, is stranded near Sechelt in 2016. A postmortem examination suggests he died from trauma consistent with a vessel strike. (Photo supplied by Paul Cottrell, Fisheries and Oceans Canada)
“We can do better” — humans the leading cause of orca deaths: study

B.C. research reveals multitude of human and environmental threats affecting killer whales

A logo for Netflix on a remote control is seen in Portland, Ore.,Aug. 13, 2020. Experts in taxation and media say a plan announced Monday by the government will ultimately add to the cost of digital services and goods sold by foreign companies. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Jenny Kane
‘Netflix tax’ for digital media likely to raise prices for consumers, experts say

The government says Canadian companies already collect those taxes when they make digital sales

BIG SALMON ranch in Washington State. (Center for Whale Research handout)
Non-profit buys Chinook ranch in hopes of increasing feed for southern resident killer whales

The ranch, which borders both sides of Washington State’s Elwha River, is a hotspot for chinook salmon

Gaming content was big on YouTube in 2020. (Black Press Media files)
What did Canadians watch on Youtube during isolation? Workouts, bird feeders

Whether it was getting fit or ‘speaking moistly,’ Canadians had time to spare this year

Most Read