VICTORIA (NEWS 1130) – Getting through and recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic is expected to be the primary focus of B.C.’s throne speech Monday.
Lt.-Gov. Janet Austin will read the speech as MLAs return to the legislature, either in person or on Zoom following a two-week break.
“We want to get the pandemic behind us,” he said. “We want to build back stronger. We want to invest in people. We want to strengthen communities. We want to make sure that we are able to help businesses grow and hire,” NDP house leader Mike Farnworth said.
This speech precedes the NDP’s first budget as a majority government that will come down April 20. Last December Finance Minister Selina Robinson forecast a budget deficit of around $14 billion.
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Critics and special interest groups will also be watching to see if the NDP continues to move forward on the path to universal child care, overall affordability, and transit infrastructure projects.
Other topics are likely to include the province’s ongoing opioid overdose crisis. The B.C. Coroners Services reported a record number of illicit opioid overdose deaths in 2020, when 1,716 people died.
Interim Liberal Leader Shirley Bond said the government’s economic, social and health programs throughout the pandemic have been unfocused and the Opposition will demand initiatives with straightforward goals. The Liberals also want more support for small- and medium-sized businesses.
Throne speech comes during another surge in COVID-19 cases
Like the last throne speech in December, this one comes as COVID-19 cases are surging. B.C. recorded a near-record high number of COVID-19 cases between Thursday and Friday, with 1,262 new infections. There are also 332 people hospitalized with COVID-19, including a record 102 who are in the ICU.
A joint statement from Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix says there are currently 105 active cases that are confirmed variants of concern, the most common of which is the B.1.1.7 strain.
On the vaccine front, the province crossed the million-dose mark, with 1,025,019 administered so far.
All adults living and working in Whistler can now apply to get their COVID-19 shot, in a program designed to stem the booming cases of the P.1 variant.
With files from The Canadian Press and Denise Wong