By Fran Yanor, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
In a moment of unprecedented grace, twelve members from all provincial political parties unanimously passed legislative changes to allow money to flow to British Columbians hurt by the COVID-19 outbreak.
“As British Columbians and as legislators, we know that this is an extraordinary time,” said Horgan, who thanked the leadership and members of the Liberal and Green Parties for ‘talking and working on solutions.”
A quorum of 12 MLAs representing all parties reconvened the legislature to pass emergency changes to allow a $5 billion economic recovery package to begin flowing to workers and businesses. Adhering to the provincial health officer’s directive to maintain social distancing and minimize leaving home, a minimal amount of Ministers and Opposition members were in attendance.
“At this unique time, partisanship has left the building,” said Horgan. “People are here to work together with one singular focus: that’s the health and well-being of all British Columbians.”
Over the days prior to the emergency session, all parties had been in discussions and briefings to ensure the quickest, most effective government response to the fast-evolving COVID-19 outbreak situation.
“It is important that British Columbians know that the institution of parliament is functioning cooperatively and collaboratively to ensure that everything possible is being done to protect the health and safety of our citizens,” said Abbotsford West MLA Mike de Jong who led debate questions in the House today.
A long-time Liberal heavyweight first elected in 1994, de Jong has held nearly a third of the Cabinet posts over the years, including stints as Minister of Health and Minister of Finance.
In the abbreviated Question Period debate, a forum not usually a stage for sombre reflection, de Jong did just that, comparing the challenges of the novel coronavirus to “previous generations who overcame adversity” during the Second World War.
“Today we are facing a different threat, an invisible, silent invasion that randomly seeks its victims and attempts to enlist each one of us as an unwitting collaborator in its infectious spread,” de Jong said. “Today, I believe, we can honour the legacy of our parents, grandparents and great-grandparents by demonstrating that we, too, possess the strength, the fortitude and the discipline to successfully guide our society through the challenge.”
The impact of the pandemic on the province “will take a herculean effort on all our parts to overcome…’ said de Jong. “On a day when phrases like hand in hand and arm in arm seem strangely inappropriate, let us remember this. We are so much stronger and so much better when we are working together.”
The momentousness of the situation also inspired rare energies of non-partisanship across provincial boundaries, according to Horgan. B.C. Minister of Finance Carole James briefed her Albertan counterpart “about where we’re going, in the interest and hope that coming together will get a better outcome for both jurisdictions,” he said.
“These are signals and symbols to the community, signals and symbols to British Columbians that we are indeed all in this together… fighting the good fight,” said Horgan.
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