B.C. Legislature resumes work next month — but it's going to look a lot different
Spring session could resemble Hollywood Squares when MLAs reconvene mid-June, premier says
B.C.'s politicians are preparing to resume government debates in the legislature next month, but in a way that will be much different than when they left off.
The spring legislative session came to a grinding halt mid-March as the COVID-19 pandemic swept across the globe. It has only met once since then, for an emergency one-day session March 23rd with a minimal number of MLAs present.
Now, the premier says elected officials are gearing up to return once again — sort of.
"It's going to be new, it's going to be innovative and it's going to be a challenge," John Horgan told reporters Wednesday.
He expects the sitting will reconvene either the week of June 15 or June 22. For how long is unclear, but enough time to accomplish a few key tasks, he suggested.
I suspect we're going to see lots of Hollywood Squares or Brady Bunch-type images of multiple MLAs,- Premier John Horgan
"We'll be focused on getting the budget passed, getting the estimates process completed and a modest number of pieces of legislation that we believe are required to keep our agenda moving forward."
Horgan credited the House leaders of all three parties — the NDP's Mike Farnworth, the Liberals' Mary Polak and the Greens' Sonia Furstenau — for crafting plans on how to do so in line with physical distancing rules.
"It'll look different for debates, it'll look different for Question Period," he explained during his weekly media availability. "We're going to be using more technology, we're going to be using multiple rooms so we can keep MLAs at a distance."
Not all 87 MLAs will return to Victoria. Some, especially those in the far reaches of the province, might stay in their ridings and use online technology to participate in debates, voting from their home computers.
As we move forward in BC's Restart Plan, it's important for MLAs to debate & pass laws to improve the lives of British Columbians.<br><br>Things will look different, w/ more video conferencing & physical distancing measures, but we expect legislative sittings to resume around mid-June. <a href="https://t.co/nvUm64bniX">pic.twitter.com/nvUm64bniX</a>—@jjhorgan
Horgan noted changes are already being made inside the building as part of a collective effort to curb the spread of COVID-19.
"For those who have been milling about the legislature periodically, there seems to be an awful lot of television screens going up in places where there never used to be any."
When describing what that could look like, he likened the imagery to decades-old television shows.
"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 building, or different parts of the province, participating in the dynamics of the democracy of British Columbia."
Horgan said he will wear a mask in situations where physical distancing cannot be guaranteed, in accordance with the latest recommendations from health officials.