The B.C. government has formally extended the provincial state of emergency, allowing Mike Farnworth, Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General, to continue to use extraordinary powers under the Emergency Program Act to support the Province's COVID-19 pandemic response.
“We’re starting to see some restrictions lifting, but there are measures we need to keep in place to continue battling COVID-19,” said Premier John Horgan. “We will continue to take the necessary steps to make sure British Columbians are safe and that the most vulnerable people are protected, while experts work to find a treatment or vaccine.”
In release, the Province states that the state of emergency is extended through the end of the day on July 21, 2020. As a result of the extension, the government may continue to keep British Columbians safe while measures that would allow the state of emergency to be lifted seek legislative approval.
“We’ve made a commitment to British Columbians to do all that we can to keep COVID-19 at bay,” Farnworth said. “The extension of the state of emergency will allow us to keep orders in place to ensure public safety until measures are in place to transition out of the state of emergency.”
On June 22, government introduced the COVID-19 Related Measures Act, legislation to allow provisions created for people and businesses in response to the COVID-19 pandemic to continue as needed after the provincial state of emergency ends.
Actions taken in the previous two weeks to support British Columbians include:
- completing a successful school restart, with almost 200,000 students safely returning back to the classroom;
- launching a $5-million Youth Community Partnership program to engage youth to work on community service projects to help communities build back better from COVID-19 impacts;
- investing in a suite of initiatives to protect long-term care and assisted-living residents from COVID-19 as facilities begin allowing visitors;
- enhancing B.C.’s climate action tax credit as part of the B.C. COVID-19 Action Plan to help make sure people and businesses have the support they need while B.C. works through its restart plan; and
- extending the federal employment insurance exemptions and the temporary crisis supplement to ensure people on income or disability assistance, or low-income seniors, continue to have the supports they need.
The extension of the provincial state of emergency is based on recommendations from B.C.’s health and emergency management officials. Farnworth made the original declaration on March 18, after Dr. Bonnie Henry, provincial health officer, declared a public health emergency the previous day.
- Declarations of provincial states of emergency may be issued by the minister responsible under the Emergency Program Act.
- The provincial government can extend the period of a declaration made by the minister responsible for further periods of up to 14 days at a time.
- During the 2017 wildfire season, the province was in a provincial state of emergency for 10 weeks from July 7 to Sept. 15.
The state of emergency in British Columbia was extended for another two weeks on May 27, which made it the longest state of emergency in the province's history.
Prior to COVID-19, the longest state of emergency in B.C.'s history was during the 2017 wildfire season, which lasted for 10 weeks.