B.C. Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth, seen at the legislature May 18, 2018, has emergency authority in COVID-19 pandemic. (Tom Fletcher/Black Press)

B.C. declares state of emergency, recalling legislature for COVID-19

Legislature coming back next week with few MLAs

The B.C. government has activated a state of emergency, as it did with wildfires in 2017 and 2018, to deal with the coronavirus outbreak.

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Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth declared the state of emergency March 18, calling it “an all-hands-on-deck approach” with all levels of government to maintain critical supply lines and infrastructure.

Farnworth said he has been getting good cooperation from everyone, and doesn’t expect to be using the authority that includes controlling food and fuel distribution.

“What we’re seeing is what we see every time there’s an emergency, people stepping up and coming forward,” Farnworth said. “I’m not anticipating having to use those powers, but they are there.”

Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry activated her public health emergency authority Tuesday, ordering bars to close and restricting restaurants to take-out or widely spaced seating. Farnworth said people’s compliance with self-isolation is covered by the health emergency law, as are public gatherings of more than 50 people.

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Farnworth said the B.C. legislature will resume sitting next week as scheduled, with minimum staff and a quorum of 12 MLAs, eight of them from the NDP government. The B.C. Liberal opposition will have two members and the B.C. Green Party will have both its members taking part, sitting far apart to follow Henry’s direction on “social distancing” to prevent transmission of viruses.

The legislature’s first tasks will be to pass an interim supply bill to permit government spending, and amendments to the Employment Standards Act to prevent layoffs due to the sweeping “social distancing” and public gathering rules now in effect.

The provincial state of emergency declaration is for two weeks, renewable by cabinet order as was done in the 2017 and 2018 forest fire seasons, when communities were evacuated to community centres and other shelters.


@tomfletcherbc
tfletcher@blackpress.ca

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