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BC NDP’s $1,000 COVID-19 relief benefit could be delayed until new year, says premier

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British Columbians may not get the $1,000 recovery benefit promised by the NDP before the end of the year.

Providing the benefit to all families with a household income under $125,000 was among the New Democrats’ key campaign promises.

On Sunday, Premier John Horgan said he is hoping to reconvene the legislature before the end of the year, but there may be delays into getting things in place due to the volume of mail-in ballots.

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“We are going to await the final results, a new government will be sworn in and then we will look to see if there is any time left for a legislative session,” Horgan said.

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“I know there are a few pieces of legislation on the order paper, they would of course need to be re-introduced and I hopeful we will be able to get back into the legislature — but I don’t want to make a promise I might not be able to keep.”

Read more: BC NDP pledges $1,000 in COVID-19 relief to certain families if re-elected

The benefit will actually be provided on a sliding scale up to an annual family income of $175,000 a year, meaning those who earn more will receive less of the benefit. The platform also included a promise of a one-time $500 direct deposit to single people earning less than $62,000 annually, with a sliding scale up to $87,000.

Elections BC will not start counting an estimated 85,000 absentee ballots will be considered for final count and approximately 525,000 mail-in ballots until Nov. 6 at the earliest.

Chief electoral officer Anton Boegman said the legislation calls for the final count to start with 13 days of election day but the huge volume may delay that.

Any delay to counting the ballots and knowing the final result of the election will delay the creation of a cabinet and the return of the legislature.

Horgan will continue to operate as premier and other ministers will continue to serve in their pre-election jobs until a new cabinet is sworn in.

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“Our commitment is to complete this process as quickly as possible, while maintaining the necessary integrity checks,” Boegman said.

“When we accurately know the volume of vote-by-mail and other absentee ballots to be counted, we’ll be able to determine when final count will begin and we’ll keep the public informed throughout this process.”

UBC political scientist Maxwell Cameron says typically there would be no reason to rush a transition to a new government and new cabinet but COVID-19 has changed some of that. Typically it takes time to put everyone in place and get new policies drawn up for consideration in the legislature.

“Under normal circumstances I would say be patient because you can operate without a new cabinet, the transitions can be long but that’s not a problem because we have the civil service,” Cameron said.

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“But we are in the middle of a pandemic, I would certainty worry about making sure we don’t skip a beat.”

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