Victoria: Politicians in British Columbia will return to a new look legislature next month where efforts to prevent the spread of COVID-19 could see the house taking on the appearance of a TV game show, says Premier John Horgan.
Horgan said Wednesday he expects the legislature to resume sitting either June 15 or June 22 to pass the budget and several pieces of legislation.
“It’s going to be an innovative time,’’ he said at a news conference. “It’s going to be a challenging time. I think it will be an exciting time.’’
Horgan said the legislature will look different for debates and question period to ensure physical distancing is followed. The use of online technology will be increased to allow politicians to participate and vote from virtual screens at the legislature or from their ridings.
“I suspect we’re going to see lots of ‘Hollywood Squares’ or ‘Brady Bunch’ type images of multiple MLAs that are in different parts of the legislature or different parts of the province participating in the dynamics of the democracy of B.C.,’’ he said.
Television screens are being installed throughout the legislature. Horgan suggested that spilt-screen images of politicians participating in debates will resemble scenes from the popular game show “Hollywood Squares.’’
Horgan said he will wear a mask when he cannot guarantee physical distancing, adding he has about a half-dozen cloth masks.
B.C. health officials have endorsed the use of non-medical masks in public settings to protect others
In a joint statement, Health Minister Adrian Dix and provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said masks should be used when it’s difficult to keep a physical distance, such as when using public transit, because it “is a good way for you to protect those around you.’’
“We have to remember that face coverings keep our droplets in and don’t prevent transmission from others,’’ the statement says. “The best ways for us to stay safe is to wash our hands, maintain a safe physical distance from others and keep our ‘rules’ for social interactions top of mind.’’
Canada’s public health officer, Dr. Theresa Tam, also said Wednesday that people should wear masks as an added layer of protection.
B.C. reported 21 new cases of COVID-19 Wednesday, an increase from the two cases announced Tuesday. Three more people have died for a death toll of 149, the government said.
There have been 2,467 positive COVID-19 cases in B.C. and 2,001 people have recovered.
The legislature last met for an emergency one-day sitting on March 23 to adopt financial spending legislation and amend employment standards to prevent people from losing their jobs due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
By Dirk Meissner
The Canadian Press