The Horgan government’s priority must be public health, not corporate profits

Statement by the Communist Party of BC Provincial Committee, Jan. 15, 2022

As 2022 begins, the Horgan government’s shift away from the promises which helped them win elections in 2017 and 2019 has become even more evident. Recent months have highlighted several key areas where the NDP has retreated further in the face of pressures and demands by big business: the continued disastrous emphasis on resource extraction and export strategies; using the RCMP for mass arrests of Indigenous land defenders and environmental activists; the appalling decision to limit paid annual sick time for employees to just five days. The response is a growth of cynicism and anger against the NDP in British Columbia, even among their supporters in the working class and Indigenous peoples who hoped the defeat of the Liberals would bring positive change.

But now, the Horgan government’s failing record on the Covid pandemic crisis has sent its popularity into a sharper decline. Everywhere in the capitalist world, including in British Columbia, the highly infectious, changing nature of the virus has brought complications. However, most governments, including the NDP here in recent years, have failed to heed consistent warnings that public health care systems must be expanded and strengthened. Instead, health care spending has been the target of neoliberal slashing and privatization for decades, while the rich and corporations benefit from huge tax cuts.

This has left British Columbia poorly prepared for the Covid emergency. During the initial pandemic months, rates of infection and hospitalization were lower here than most other parts of North America. But after coasting on this early success, politicians here increasingly acted mainly on business demands to “open up the economy”.  As infection and hospitalization rates rise and fall, mixed signals have been sent by government and health officials, in terms of crucial decisions around schools, public gatherings, masking rules, vaccination timetables and mandates, etc.

Here as elsewhere, politicians tried to deflect public anger by focusing on the outrageous actions of anti-vaxx far-right forces which target unionized health care and education workers, hospitality sector employees and other front-line workers. But the Horgan government’s response to the latest wave of infections and serious illnesses related to the omicron variant signals that it considers major investment in improved health care measures and public protections to be “too expensive”.

The BC Committee of the Communist Party condemns the Horgan government’s weak and confused response to this mass disability event. Shamefully, the government continues to downplay omicron as “mild” for those without pre-existing conditions, and is even preparing to close the long-Covid clinic in Abbotsford. We strongly support the demands by teachers, health care workers and others for mass distribution of top-quality masks, a much more robust rapid test system, stronger regulations on public gatherings during the omicron wave, installation of hepa air filters in schools, 14 days of annual paid sick leave, the restoration of emergency Covid payments (by both federal and provincial governments) and other measures. We renew our demand for an immediate increase in social assistance and disability rates, to help those facing the greatest health obstacles at this critical and difficult time. The priority of governments today must be to protect public health, not to cave to the pressures of big business demands to force employees back to jobsites under unsafe conditions.

For more information, contact Communist Party of BC leader Kimball Cariou, 604-255-2041, or the Vancouver Island organizer for the Communist Party, Tyson Strandlund, 250-883-7321.