Premier John Horgan and a handful of MLAs convene the B.C. legislature for emergency session to deal with coronavirus-related business, March 23, 2020. (Hansard TV)

B.C. legislature meets briefly with minimum MLAs to deal with COVID-19

Votes to continue money supply, amend law to prevent layoffs

Premier John Horgan called the B.C. legislature into a brief session to change employment law to protect workers affected by the novel coronavirus pandemic sweeping around the world.

Only 10 MLAs gathered in the chamber March 23, a rare event that also had to pass a motion to continue the province’s spending authority with a bare quorum to make it official. Finance Minister Carole James joined the session hours after revealing a $5 billion aid package for people forced to stop working and businesses forced to cut back or close down.

Two members of the B.C. Liberal and B.C. Green opposition parties staged a brief question period before the votes, with Abbotsford West MLA Mike de Jong asking Health Minister Adrian Dix to forecast what the COVID-19 situation is likely to look like in the months to come.

Dix replied by describing the clearing of more than 3,600 acute care hospital beds, and the province stepping up virus testing as the public health emergency orders shut down all but essential business and public functions.

RELATED: B.C. announces $5 billion fund, including cash for workers

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“I don’t see any prospect before the end of April for those orders changing,” Dix told the legislature.

Responding to a question about hoarding and selling virus-related supplies, B.C. Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth reported on his latest discussion with his federal counterpart Bill Blair. A series of federal orders to protect supply chains and key supplies will be coming soon, Farnworth said.

James said the financial aid package is still being developed with the $5 billion authorized by a unanimous vote. Asked by Richmond-Queensborough MLA Jas Johal whether it is enough for the situation, James said that remains unknown.

The ministry doesn’t yet know if $5 billion will be enough “for the next three months, the next six months, the next two months.”


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