Statement by Premier John Horgan in Legislature on Monday, March 23, 2020:
Hon. J. Horgan: I thank my colleagues for joining us here in what could only be described as an extraordinary sitting of the B.C. Legislature.
I want to, at the outset, offer my deepest condolences to the families of 13 British Columbians who have passed away since the arrival of COVID-19, the first case being identified just 41 days ago here in British Columbia.
When we think of what our lives were like six weeks ago, it’s hard to imagine how far we have come as a society, how far we have come as a community, as we’ve tried to grapple with a pandemic that is gripping not just British Columbia, not just Canada, not just North America but indeed the world.
It’s humbling to think that the 12 of us here today, representing different political perspectives from around British Columbia, have arrived to do something that I can’t recall, in my time as a member of this place, coming on 15 years — nor as a student of history, going back over the many, many decades, a century and a half of Canada’s existence — where British Columbians have had their elected representatives meet on such a dark and troubling occasion to talk about how we come out of that darkness better off for the effort — better off because of the cooperation; better off because of the spirit that I believe is in all of us as British Columbians and Canadians, focused on helping each other, being kind and being mindful that our actions are important.
I’ve heard over the past six weeks, as we’ve seen health care workers do over 21,000 tests for COVID-19, as the virus has swept around the world…. British Columbians started early, and I give full credit to the provincial health office, led by Dr. Bonnie Henry, and my colleague from Vancouver-Kingsway, the Minister of Health, for putting us on the right footing as we take on this significant challenge.
This challenge is one in which we are armed with a few tools. All of us are armed with these tools. Dr. Henry has been reminding us daily, for now many weeks: those tools are simple. Wash your hands frequently, create physical distance between your colleagues here in the Legislature; create physical distance between yourself and fellow citizens; and if you are ill, self-isolate; if you’ve come from somewhere else in the past number of days, self-isolate for 14 days. These tools are available to all of us, and these tools must be used by all of us if we’re going to flatten the curve to ensure that we are not inundated in our acute care system by those who are afflicted by this disease, this virus.
As British Columbians and as legislators, we know that this is an extraordinary time. I want to thank the Leader of the Opposition, the Opposition House Leader, members of the Green Party, members of the Liberal Party, who have been overwhelmingly supportive of initiatives that we’ve brought forward, briefings that are unusual in any normal legislative session.
To have members from both sides of the House talking and working on solutions, taking advantage of the experience in the opposition benches — many, many cabinet ministers who understand the administrative challenges of running a department in normal circumstances, fully understanding how running those departments in extraordinary circumstance requires criticism, to be sure, if we misstep, but criticism that’s focused on better outcomes always.
The absence of partisanship I think all British Columbians should celebrate. At this unique time, partisanship has left the building. People are here to work together with one singular focus. That’s the health and well-being of all British Columbians.
I want to say, as we begin a debate about supply for $5 billion…. The Minister of Finance will be laying that out. Briefings have been provided to all opposition members. I think the debate will be quick, but the debate will take place.
I think it’s also important to remind British Columbians that this is not something that’s being pushed through without consultation. It’s not something that is not based and grounded on the science that we’ve been provided by public health officials working in concert — working with the private sector, working with not-for-profits, working with our extraordinary public officials here in British Columbia and, indeed, across the country.
I don’t know…. There’s a former Finance Minister here today. I don’t believe that at any time has the Minister of Finance in British Columbia given a briefing to the Minister of Finance in Alberta about where we’re going, in the interest and hope that coming together will get a better outcome for both jurisdictions.
These are signals and symbols to the community, signals and symbols to British Columbians that we are indeed all in this together — British Columbians, Albertans, Maritimers, Quebecers. All of us are in this together as Canadians fighting the good fight, focused on making sure that those that are so critical to our success, health care workers, have the supports that they need.
That means we have to make sure that the truckers and the people working at the ports and the people stocking the shelves in our grocery stores…. They are all so critically important to the success of our health care system, critically important to the well-being of all British Columbians. Utility workers, child care workers caring for the children of health care providers — that’s what we need to focus on. That’s what we are focusing on.
I’m absolutely proud of the members of this Legislature who have come with one voice today to debate and discuss a package that will provide relief to citizens, provide relief to businesses — and, also, legislation that will protect workers. We’ve done that in an extraordinary way, in extraordinary circumstances.
With that, I cede the floor to the members on the other side. Again, it’s with eternal thanks and gratitude to all British Columbians that as we create the systems that will take us forward, you give us your patience, you give us our well-being, and together we’ll come through this stronger than when we went into it.
Source: BC Hansard