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B.C. gov't shifts to caretaker mode ahead of election, says COVID-19 remains a priority

Last Updated Sep 22, 2020 at 6:32 am PDT

FILE - B.C. Legislature in Victoria. (Martin MacMahon, NEWS 1130 Photo)

As government ministers must step back during the election campaign, the business of the province is being watched over

John Horgan is leaving Finance Minister Carole James as the stay-behind minister to handle issues that may arise

B.C.'s Dr. Bonnie Henry says fighting the COVID-19 pandemic will remain her focus

VICTORIA (NEWS 1130) – The provincial government is now in caretaker mode as campaigning gets underway for B.C.’s Oct. 24 election.

However, the province is still being watched over.

NDP Leader John Horgan says as he moves to work on the election, he is leaving Finance Minister Carole James at the helm to deal with issues as they arise.

“The tradition is to have a stay-behind minister to work with the public service, the professional public service, which I have complete confidence in,” he said on Monday after the election was announced.

James is one of a handful of ministers not seeking re-election. She was a former NDP leader, deputy premier, and finance minister.

“There is not a person in British Columbia that I have more confidence in than her,” Horgan said. “And I am sure that she will administer the government of British Columbia to meet the needs of British Columbians as issues arise in a way that will do us all proud.”

Snap election and the COVID-19 pandemic

When it comes to the COVID-19 pandemic, B.C. Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry stressed that nothing changes as far as her powers go under the Emergency Act.

Henry said just hours after the writ was dropped that her focus is and will continue to be on the health crisis.

“Elections BC has taken a number of measures to make sure that [voting] can be done safely in all of those environments. So, First Nations communities, rural and remote communities, as well as some people who are in hospital or people who are in long-term care homes, that we can do it safely,” B.C.’s top doctor said at her COVID-19 briefing on Monday, adding mail-in voting will play a big role in this coming election.

Pointing to recent elections in Canada, including in New Brunswick, where a provincial vote took place just last week, Henry said there’ve been examples of successes associated with mail-in voting.

She also said that Horgan had not asked for her advice when it came to the timing of an election. She has been working with Elections BC since the spring to put together guidelines to ensure a safe vote.

Henry has assured that she and the deputy minister of health will be making decisions as needed, seeking advice and direction from the health minister and James, as needed.

She said Adrian Dix would not be joining her in her COVID-19 briefings amid the campaign period.

“It would not be appropriate for him to be on the campaign and have the opportunity to speak publicly twice a week. But he will very much be involved in ensuring the ongoing management of the crisis, along with Minister James, who’s the caretaker minister during this period,” Henry said.

On whether she would be watching to see whether people may be congregating and breaking health protocols put in place to curb the spread of COVID-19 amid campaigning, Henry said she’s given parameters and advice for each of the parties to consider.

“Each political party has come up with their COVID safety plan, as we’ve required, and Elections BC has a COVID safety plan, and we’ve been working with them on those. So, they’re not orders — in that sense they’re not enforceable. We absolutely will be monitoring and providing guidance and advice, as needed, to ensure that these are done in a way that is safe and doesn’t put anybody, whether it’s the candidate, their staff, people on the campaign trail, or the public, at risk,” Henry added.

-With files from Marcella Bernardo