Premier John Horgan. (Supplied by the Province of British Columbia)
The curve is flattening in British Columbia.
That’s the latest update from Premier John Horgan in an exclusive interview with Vista Radio this morning.
While there’s been a reduction in hospitalizations over the past 10 days, Horgan said now is not the time to let our guard down.
“Those are the signals we were looking for so that we can start to see the end of the tunnel,” he said.
“But we still have a distance to go, and (Provincial Health Officer) Dr. (Bonnie) Henry is going to be pretty clear on that. We can’t let up now. We need to celebrate the success that we’ve had but also focus on making sure that we can continue to get that curve down, so that we can start to reintegrate into some sense of normalcy.”
Horgan said a good start to reopening B.C. is to ensure that we have safe workplaces.
“We did not want to see a complete shutdown of the province,” he said. “Others have used the language of ‘lockdown’ and so-on but when you go to those jurisdictions, whether they’re here in Canada or the U.S. or in Europe, the list of exemptions gets to be several pages long. What’s characterized as essential changes from jurisdiction-to-jurisdiction.”
Horgan said the province tried to focus on sectors of the economy that can continue to operate safely, based on input from the public health office and WorkSafeBC.
He added that it will be the same process as we get back to a sense to normalcy.
Shifting to the economy, Horgan said that when we come out of the other side of the pandemic, we’ll be in a “whole new world.”
He stressed that we’re all in this together, and that much hinges on the status of our neighbours in other provinces such as Alberta, as well as the U.S., and around the world.
“Even if we are in a better place than others, if our trading partners are not purchasing our goods, that will have a negative impact on our economy,” he said.
Horgan added that the province will be rebuilding how it delivers services based on the revenues it has, and the demand in the communities.
He noted that the “good news” is, the provinces are working together in a way that he has never seen before.
“The level of cooperation across the country really speaks to the resilience of Canadians and whatever your politics are, whatever your regional differences are, none of that really matters,” Horgan said. “If one of us is suffering, we all need to lend a helping hand. That’s what it means to be Canadian and we’re seeing that in spades, not just in politics but in community activities as well. People helping people. It’s really inspiring.”
In that vein, Horgan explained why he opposes the federal Emergencies Act, which he believes muddies the waters: “We have emergency legislation in every province, we deliver services to people. If we need your help, come and help us, but don’t impose overtop of the restrictions that we’ve already announced, new restrictions. That will lead to confusion with the public, who’s in charge, whose rules are paramount. The federal government should be there to help, not to impose different restrictions.”
Another hot button topic is the early release of prisoners due to COVID-19. Horgan said it should be a last resort.
“I believe releasing people before they serve their time is not the best way forward, but we also want to take into consideration the health and well-being of not just those who are incarcerated but those who oversee them, correctional officers and others,” he said.
As for a return to normalcy, Horgan said it isn’t going to happen anytime soon: “It’s not happening today, it’s not happening next week. We established a recovery task force a few weeks back… and we’re going sector-by-sector based on whose ministerial responsibilities are first-and-foremost, to talk to people about how ready they are to make sure that they have safe workplaces. It won’t be a magic ‘look, we’ve reached a number and now we can open things up as before.’ It will be quite different and it will take another level of cooperation that is unprecedented in B.C. and in Canada.”
He said it’s important to keep “moving down the field” but we “have a little bit of distance to go yet.”