B.C. Premier John Horgan announces B.C. is working on its own economic aid package, B.C. legislature, March 17, 2020. (B.C. government)

States of local emergency suspended by province

Extraordinary powers are being used to issue ministerial orders by the B.C. government

Municipal states of emergency, such as the one declared in Prince Rupert on March 23, are suspended, Mike Farnthworth, Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General announced in a statement on March 26.

Premier John Horgan said the province was taking that measure to stop the “patchwork” of rules across B.C.

A “uniform approach,” Horgan said, is needed at this point to reduce panic and inspire confidence that the system is working.

“Using the extraordinary powers under the Emergency Program Act, the Minister has issued a series of ministerial orders to ensure a co-ordinated response to COVID-19 across all levels of government for the duration of the provincial emergency,” the Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor General said in a statement.

“These include:

Co-ordination: Suspending local states of emergency specific to the COVID-19 pandemic, except for the City of Vancouver; giving municipal councils the ability to hold more flexible meetings to expedite decisions; and co-ordinating potential use of local publicly owned facilities, like community centres, for self-isolation, testing, medical care, warehousing and distribution.

Supply chain: Establishing a new Provincial Supply Chain Coordination Unit to co-ordinate goods and services distribution; taking a more active role in co-ordinating essential goods and services movement by land, air, marine and rail; and suspending any bylaws that restrict goods delivery at any time of day.

READ MORE: Rent freeze, no evictions and money to tenants

Protecting consumers: Banning the secondary resale of food, medical supplies, personal protective equipment, cleaning and other essential supplies; and restricting quantities of items purchased at point of sale.

Enforcement: Enabling municipal bylaw officers to support enforcement of the provincial health officer’s orders for business closures and gatherings, in line with offences under the Public Health Act.

Travel: Ensuring all passenger and car-ferry services provide minimum service levels and priority access for residents, and essential goods and workers.

Protecting B.C.’s most vulnerable: Making it easier to support critical services for vulnerable people, like food banks and shelters.”

Farnworth declared a provincial state of emergency on March 18, 2020, after the provincial health officer declared a public health emergency on March 17.

“These unprecedented steps, made based on the recommendation of B.C.’s health and emergency management officials and invoked for the first time under a provincial state of emergency, will support the provincial health officer and minister of health in a co-ordinated cross-government approach to COVID-19 response and recovery, ” the press release said.

“Many local governments, First Nations and partners have stepped up to make sure they have prepared to protect their communities from the impacts of COVID-19. Today’s measures will make sure communities are taking necessary steps, in co-ordination with the Province, to get ready should more action be required to combat COVID-19, ” said Farnworth.

“The Province, in consultation with Dr. Bonnie Henry, B.C.’s provincial health officer, defined essential services British Columbians rely on in their daily lives in the context of COVID-19 response and recovery. This is distinct from essential service designations under the Province’s Labour Relations Code.,” the statement said.

“Any business or service that has not been ordered to close, and is also not identified on the essential service list, may stay open if it can adapt its services and workplace to the orders and recommendations of the provincial health order (PHO),” said the Ministry.

READ MORE: B.C. bans resale of food, medical and cleaning supplies; limits buying quantities

“In these new and challenging times we are facing, we’re asking British Columbians to stay strong as a community, and together we can get through this,” Adrian Dix, Minister of Health, said.

“I’m proud of the strategic measures we have enacted government-wide to help our families and health-care workers, to keep them safe and supported. By issuing a series of ministerial orders, we recognize that this is not forever, but it is for now. With everyone stepping in and respecting the extraordinary means we have to take, we will overcome this.”


 
K-J Millar | Journalist 
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