NDP house leader Mike Farnworth (left) and B.C. legislature speaker Darryl Plecas are among the few MLAs present in person as the B.C. legislature reopens, June 22, 2020. (Hansard TV)

B.C. legislature resumes with most MLAs, votes ‘virtual’

John Horgan NDP extending cabinet’s emergency powers

The B.C. legislature has resumed the sitting it abruptly ended in March, with the NDP government moving to give cabinet the authority to extend COVID-19 pandemic measures beyond the provincial state of emergency.

Premier John Horgan and Attorney General David Eby were among a handful of MLAs physically present in the chamber June 22, which has been modified for virtual votes and debate with seats removed and large video screens installed.

Eby introduced three bills, one of which gives the B.C. cabinet authority to extend pandemic-related orders by up to a year. Specific orders already in place can be extended by 45 to 90 days after a provincial state of emergency is ended, which would automatically end them under the existing Emergency Management Act.

“This legislation will support the delicate work of formalizing and unwinding emergency measures relied on by British Columbians during the pandemic in a way that recognizes that the impacts of COVID-19 may still be felt for an extended period after the state of emergency is over,” Eby said.

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Eby also introduced amendments that allow wills to be witnessed virtually, making permanent an option that was introduced under the provincial state of emergency for COVID-19. Another bill gives the Insurance Corp. of B.C. authority to issue licence decals valid for longer than one year, or non-expiring.

Jobs Minister Bruce Ralston also introduced changes to the Mines Act that allow appointment of a new “chief permitting officer” to operate separately from the chief inspector of mines.


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