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

An aerial shot of Cedar Valley Lodge this past August, LNG Canada’s newest accommodation for workers. This is where several employees are isolating after a COVID-19 outbreak was declared last Thursday (Nov. 19). (Photo courtesy of LNG Canada)
41 positive COVID-19 cases associated with the LNG Canada site outbreak

Thirty-four of the 41 cases remain active, according to Northern Health

Snowplowing isn’t really our favourite pastime but it is something we have been doing a lot of lately. Winter is here folks get your shovels out! (Angelique Houlihan photo/Houston Today)
Canadian’s favourite pastime

Snowplowing isn’t really our favourite pastime but it is something we have… Continue reading

grad
Raising money

Recently 2021 grad and parents sorted through all the bottles they have… Continue reading

RCMP
Big shout out to Houston RCMP

A Houston resident submitted this photo of Houston RCMP lending a hand… Continue reading

A woman wears a protective face covering to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 as she walks along the seawall in North Vancouver Wednesday, November 25, 2020.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
911 new COVID-19 cases, 11 deaths as B.C. sees deadliest week since pandemic began

Hospitalizations reach more than 300 across the province

Black Press Media and BraveFace have come together to support children facing life-threatening conditions. Net proceeds from these washable, reusable, three-layer masks go to Make-A-Wish Foundation BC & Yukon.
Put on a BraveFace: Help make children’s wishes come true

Black Press Media, BraveFace host mask fundraiser for Make-A-Wish Foundation

More than 60 cm of snow has fallen at Ulkatcho First Nation near Anahim Lake in the Chilcotin since a snowfall warning went into effect Thursday, Nov. 26. (Graham West photo)
VIDEO: More than 60 cm of snowfall in Chilcotin since Thursday, Nov. 26

Graham West of Ulkatcho First Nation captures the scene on video

Screenshot of Pastor James Butler giving a sermon at Free Grace Baptist Church in Chilliwack on Nov. 22, 2020. The church has decided to continue in-person services despite a public health order banning worship services that was issued on Nov. 19, 2020. (YouTube)
2 Lower Mainland churches continue in-person services despite public health orders

Pastors say faith groups are unfairly targeted and that charter rights protect their decisions

A big job: Former forests minister Doug Donaldson stands before a 500-year-old Douglas fir in Saanich to announce preservation of some of B.C.’s oldest trees, July 2019. (B.C. government)
B.C. returning to ‘stand-alone’ forests, rural development ministry

Horgan says Gordon Campbell’s super-ministry doesn’t work

Alexandre Bissonnette, who pleaded guilty to a mass shooting at a Quebec City mosque, arrives at the courthouse in Quebec City on February 21, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Mathieu Belanger - POOL
Court strikes down consecutive life sentences; mosque shooter has prison term cut

The decision was appealed by both the defence and the Crown

Gold medallists in the ice dance, free dance figure skating Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, of Canada, pose during their medals ceremony at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, Tuesday, Feb. 20, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Charlie Riedel
Olympic champions Virtue, Moir and Tewksbury among 114 Order of Canada inductees

Moir and Virtue catapulted to national stardom with their gold-medal performances at the Winter Olympics in 2018

Shoppers line up in front of a shop on Montreal’s Saint-Catherine Street in search of Black Friday deals in Montreal, Friday, Nov. 27, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
Black Friday shopping in a pandemic: COVID-19 closes some stores, sales move online

Eric Morris, head of retail at Google Canada, says e-commerce in Canada has doubled during the pandemic.

School District 27 announced the first confirmed case of COVID-19 this week (Nov. 23) at Lake City Secondary School Williams Lake campus. (Angie Mindus photo - Williams Lake Tribune)
Entire gym class at northern B.C. high school isolating after confirmed COVID case

Contact tracing by Interior Health led to the quarantine

Most Read