Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry, Health Minister Adrian Dix, and vaccine expert Dr. Penny Ballem provided an update today on how British Columbia’s seniors and members of other high-risk communities will be vaccinated over the next month. During the conference, accelerated access for others was hinted at, given approval of the third vaccine and increased shipments of the other two vaccines.

The Province’s vaccine strategy led Question Period today with the BC Liberals asking for details on local vaccine plans for rural and remote communities and raising questions about uncertainties around timelines for vaccination of specific essential workers. Interim leader Shirley Bond will continue to lead the Official Opposition for the next year until the new leader is elected early next February.

As always, your H+K BC Team will continue to monitor these and other key updates as the BC Government works to emerge from the COVID-19 crisis, rebuild the economy, and return to whatever normal looks like in 2021. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out to your client lead for more information.

BC Legislature Spring Session starts today 

Today marked the start of the Spring Session at the BC Legislature, but as is on-trend with our new normal, this won’t be the usual legislature sitting we’re used to. The first four weeks will continue the work started with December’s throne speech, with new legislation being introduced this week. This month, expected on the agenda, will be more COVID-19 measures, including small business relief and plans to address the significant housing crisis that continues to cause problems, especially in the Lower Mainland.

A new speech from the throne is set for April 12, followed by Budget 2021 being delivered by new Finance Minister Selina Robinson on April 20. The next six weeks will see budget estimates and a few more pieces of legislation before adjourning on June 17 for the summer.

We’ll see a continued hybrid model that the legislature has been using since summer 2020, with a core group of 24 members – 15 NDP MLAs, eight Liberals and one Green – taking their seats in the chamber. The remaining MLAs will join in virtually to proceedings and committee meetings.

COVID-19 vaccination plan update

Today also brought the highly anticipated update to BC’s COVID-19 vaccination plan. BC’s COVID-19 vaccination plan was essentially put on hold until recently, following a shortage of vaccines delivered to the province. Today, BC is ahead of schedule, with 275,000 British Columbians having received their vaccination as the province concludes Phase 1 of its 4-phase approach. The province now expects everyone in BC will have one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine by the end of July.

As the province works through phase 2, public health officials will shift their attention to other at-risk groups such as those 80 years and older and Indigenous People 65 and older. It is expected that roughly 400,000 British Columbians will receive their first dose of the vaccine within the next couple of weeks.

Key takeaways:

  • Everyone in BC to have one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine by the end of July 2021.
  • 90 percent of long-term residents and staff have been vaccinated against COVID-19.
  • The wait period between first and second doses has been increased by 16 weeks.
  • Vaccines are now available for the general population, if over the age of 80 or an Indigenous person over the age of 65.

As BC begins the final miles of the vaccination marathon, Dr. Bonnie Henry urges individuals to continue to exercise caution. As Health Canada approves additional vaccines, BC will ‘be more agile’ on how and when people can be vaccinated.

BC Liberal Leadership 

The BC Liberal Leadership race kicked off last week, and members will choose the next leader on February 5, 2022. Candidates have until November 30 to submit their applications, which leaves plenty of time for more hopefuls to step forward. This extended timeline might be helpful given that candidates will need $45,000 in application fees and a $20,000 individual compliance deposit that will be refunded if no fines are levied during the campaign. So far, only Skeena MLA Ellis Ross has announced his plans to join the race.

Others strongly rumoured to be considering a run for BC Liberal Leader are Kevin Falcon, Gavin Dew, newly-elected Kelowna-Mission MLA Renee Merrifield and previous leadership hopeful Michael Lee, who currently holds one of the party’s few seats left in the Lower Mainland.

New to the rules is a clause that states eligible leadership candidates must “not be a person whose approval to become a leadership contestant would likely bring the party into disrepute.” This would mean that the leadership committee decides if a potential candidate would damage the BC Liberal Party’s reputation – criteria which would be very interesting to see.