MLAs will return to their hybrid chamber proceedings next Monday, July 27, 2020 at 10:00 am.
B.C. sees uptick in COVID-19 cases; Dr. Henry warns of ‘explosive growth’
B.C. saw a slight dip in the number of new COVID-19 cases on Friday, reporting 27 new cases at the end of a week in which new diagnoses topped 30 nearly every day.
On Monday, Dr. Bonnie Henry warned that “explosive” growth in COVID-19 cases could be on the way if British Columbians don’t make changes to their behaviour. Over the last few weeks, there has been a rapid increase in “unsafe” contacts, particularly among young people in their 20s and 30s.
“We do have the possibility of having explosive growth here in our outbreak, if we’re not careful,” Dr. Henry said. She pointed to the
latest modelling data
, which shows the province is no longer flattening the COVID-19 curve.
“We still have it in our hands to make a difference," Dr. Henry said. Premier Horgan made a similar plea to British Columbians on Thursday. When asked about the crowded drum circle at Vancouver's Stanley Park and the many Canada Day parties held in Kelowna, Premier Horgan said "come on, we're better than this."
Acknowledging that much of the recent COVID-19 spread is due to in-province travel – the outbreak in Kelowna has now been linked to more than 70 cases, with links to exposures in all five health authorities – Dr. Henry announced she would be unveiling stricter rules on vacation, rental and houseboat properties. This order, which is expected in the coming days, will require guests who rent properties to sign a specific rental agreement limiting the number of visitors they will have on the premises. It is not yet clear what this guest/visitor number will be.
Dr. Henry also introduced a new
for bars, nightclubs and restaurants which requires all patrons to remain seated throughout the length of their stay (i.e. no stand-up service or moving from table to table). The order also closes dance floors and reduces lineups and gathering outside.
Premier Horgan not ruling out the possibility of an early election
When asked about the possibility of an early election yesterday, Premier Horgan said there’s an “opportunity” for an election at a few points over the next fourteen months. His response has turned many heads among B.C. political pundits.
The next provincial election is scheduled for October 16, 2021, but Premier Horgan has not ruled out the possibility of one before this date.
“We have a very, very precarious balance here in BC, and I've said that between now and next fall, we need to have an election — that’s mandated by next October. And so there’s an opportunity this fall. There’s an opportunity next spring. There’s an opportunity next summer. When that happens is not necessarily clear to me today,” Horgan said.
BC Liberal Leader Andrew Wilkinson expressed his disappointment with Premier Horgan’s remarks over Twitter, saying that “all three parties in the BC Legislature have worked cooperatively to keep BC safe throughout COVID-19. An election isn’t what people need right now.” Wilkinson is calling on Premier Horgan to categorically rule out any possibility of an election before the scheduled October 2021 date.
Interim Leader of the BC Green Party, Adam Olsen, is particularly unhappy with Premier Horgan’s comments, calling them “outrageous,” arguing that British Columbians would “rightfully be outraged to have an unnecessary election forced on them in the midst of a pandemic”. The BC Green Party has set up an
to “tell the premier and his government that [these political games] are not acceptable”.
released yesterday, Elections BC noted that “the COVID-19 pandemic makes it very likely that the next election will be held under some level of public health restrictions. Administering safe and accessible elections during the pandemic is a challenge that election administrators across Canada and around the world are grappling with. Part of our mandate is to be ready to administer an election when required.”
Elections BC has been working with Dr. Bonnie Henry to create a plan for increased advanced voting opportunities, increased use of remote voting options, and physically distanced polling stations.
Business community opposes planned changes to workers’ compensation
Last week, the provincial government introduced proposed amendments to the
Workers Compensation Act
, which would change WorkSafeBC’s powers and the amount of compensation workers can receive.
If approved, the amendments to the
Workers Compensation Act
would raise the maximum salary on which workers compensation benefits are based to $100,000 from $87,000. WorkSafeBC would also be able to order urgent treatment for injuries before hearings, among a number of other changes.
This week, representatives from 21 B.C. business organizations penned a
to Minister of Labour Harry Bains, calling for him to scrap the planned
The signatories said they “fully understand the need” for the measures being proposed, but that B.C. businesses cannot afford to carry any extra costs right now.
The business groups cited a recent survey which showed that more than half of B.C.’s medium and large businesses have seen increased costs related to “WorkSafeBC measures that appropriately assist with keeping workers and customers safe from COVID-19.”
“We urged your government to ‘do no harm’ and set aside any measures that increase costs, add to the regulatory burden or create further uncertainty for BC employers,” the letter reads.
Minister Bains spent much of this week’s question period defending the bill, after the opposition BC Liberals brought forth the business community’s concerns. They argued that Minister Bains is imposing new costs on employers to deal with the threat of on-the-job injuries, when people are vastly more worried about jobs, period.
In defence, Minister Bains argued that B.C. workers deserve the beefed-up benefits and protections provided by the bill. He maintains that most amendments will have no cost, but that some will have “very small costs,” which he says employers wouldn’t see for “a few years”.