BC premier backs COVID-19 health restrictions and won’t bow to the horn

VICTORIA — Premier John Horgan has said British Columbia will not be pressured by “honking” to lift the province’s COVID-19 public health restrictions. “People want to put COVID behind them.

VICTORIA — Premier John Horgan has said British Columbia will not be pressured by “honking” to lift the province’s COVID-19 public health restrictions.

“People want to put COVID behind them. I get it,” Horgan said at a news conference Tuesday after the government delivered a throne speech outlining its policy agenda for the coming months.

“I’m in the lead…but we want to make sure we don’t do it in a reckless and cavalier way just because people honk, a small minority honk.”

Horgan’s comments came on Tuesday as some provinces announced plans to remove many COVID-19 restrictions, including Saskatchewan, which is dropping its vaccination passports and will not renew its indoor mask mandate, while many Quebec restrictions will be phased out by March 14. Alberta Premier Jason Kenney also announced that his government would immediately begin phasing out health restrictions.

Horgan, who recently underwent successful radiation therapy after being diagnosed with throat cancer, said he would take advice on B.C.’s approach to the pandemic from the provincial health officer, Dr. Bonnie Henry.

“I don’t want to sound like I’m shifting the blame to Dr. Henry, but she’s much more equipped and able to understand this data and translate it for the public than I am,” he said.

Henry said late last month that some COVID-19 restrictions on social gatherings should be phased out by February 21. The final public health orders related to gatherings at sporting events and concerts are set to expire Feb. 16, and Henry said she would announce any changes a day early.

Large trucks blocked the streets of downtown Ottawa for more than a week to protest vaccination mandates. Similar protests also took place in other towns and at border crossings.

“We want to make sure that the sacrifices businesses, workers and communities have made over the past two years aren’t simply wasted because of the noise on the legislative lawn or in Canada’s capital,” Horgan said. “Having said that, I completely understand that people are done with it.”

He said the pandemic has been one of many challenges BC residents and the government have faced over the past year, including flooding, wildfires, the drug overdose crisis opioids and last summer’s heat dome.

“Over the coming months, your government’s top priority will continue to be keeping people healthy and safe through the remainder of the pandemic,” said the Speech from the Throne read to the Legislative Assembly by Lt. -governor. Janet Austin. “It can be easy to forget how far we’ve come.”

The Speech from the Throne highlighted the government’s plans to introduce a long-term economic plan next week that aims to create a greener economy. The government also promised to link minimum wage increases to the rate of inflation and said it would introduce a cooling-off period on house purchases to protect buyers in a volatile housing market.

Horgan said the government will create a new ministry to focus on land, water and resource management.

New anti-racism legislation is also expected during the spring session.

BC Liberal Leader Kevin Falcon said the Speech from the Throne repeated previous NDP promises and was more of a rollback than a forward-looking document.

“Frankly, it’s disappointing,” he said in a video statement. “We want to see how we go into the future with real measurable results.”

Greens Leader Sonia Furstenau said in a statement that the speech recognizes the loss and sacrifices BC residents have made over the past year, but rather than offering a vision for the future “the government has welcomed past initiatives and re-announced plans that have been ongoing for years.”

This report from The Canadian Press was first published on February 8, 2022.

Dirk Meissner, The Canadian Press

Note to readers: This is a corrected story. An earlier version said that Horgan had chemotherapy.

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