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.
“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.
Her Honour @LGJanetAustin promotes #socialdistancing as she attends #BCLeg to grant Royal Assent to two bills passed during an extraordinary sitting, which deal with measures in response to #COVIDー19. Take good care and #WashYourHands! #BCpoli pic.twitter.com/XixUYBzy4J
— BC Legislature (@BCLegislature) March 23, 2020
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.”