Monday July 27, 2020 ~ VICTORIA, BC
by Mary Brooke, editor ~ West Shore Voice News
Premier John Horgan launched this mid-summer week during the ongoing pandemic and another week in the BC Legislature with an announcement on campus at the University of Victoria, that in many ways is indicative of rerouting the business of his government back to pre-COVID tracks.
Housing for students at UVic:
The 600 new student housing spaces at the University of Victoria (UVic) that were announced in November 2018 are now under construction. The vision of the investment in student housing was made before before COVID, and luckily — in terms of physical distancing required during the pandemic — were designed to be single units for students. Building 1 is set to open in 2022, with the second building slated to open in 2023.
Creating more living spaces on campus means that secondary suite and other housing options in the surrounding communities of Saanich, Oak Bay and Victoria will be freed up for other people to rent. This is part of the ‘new ideas’ approach to housing that the Horgan NDP government has been taking since coming to office three years ago in July 2017.
With regard to housing the people who are still in encampments in Victoria — despite that his government “found living spaces for homeless people”, Premier Horgan suggested that Victoria “needs some original ideas and leadership at the municipal level” and to be more creative than just looking to other levels of government for solutions.
“The city is responsible for their bylaws, and they can and should manage them,” the Premier said as a clear missive to addressing the remaining local homeless situation.
He reminded municipalities that zoning bylaws need to be changed to allow for various type of affordable housing solutions. He said municipalities should be “working to accelerate zoning issues so we can build not-for-profit housing”.
Meanwhile, he asked communities to “be patient and tolerant of those who are less fortunate”. “We need to work together to find those solutions,” Horgan said.
Back to school for K-12:
The Premier addressed questions about the back-to-school season for K-12 schools coming up in September. Plans for September will be revealed soon.
He called the circumstances “unprecedented” as in having to go into and out of “a summer of pandemic”. Horgan reiterated being pleased with having seen about 38% of students voluntarily back in classes in June, so that BC has some experiences by which to formulate a plan for the return to classes in September for the 2020-2021 school year. The 60 school districts around BC will each develop their own ways of delivering the BC Curriculum, based on the needs of their communities.
The Premier referred to including parents and others as “being attentive to the needs of the broader community of the K-12 system”.
“Most families recognize we’re on a week to week basis (regarding COVID-19).” Horgan says his government looks at data and takes guidance from public health officials, emphasizing that the BC Centre for Disease Control’s COVID-19 data is “readily available to everyone”.
He acknowledged that some teachers are expressing concerns about their health and safety regarding COVID while on the job. It’s at times such as this to recognize that the public education is a public service, and that teachers are the instrument by which that is achieved (guided by their school boards and district administration).
As to the issue of seeing people driving cars with US licence plates in BC during COVID: “We don’t know the circumstances of individuals when we come upon them,” said Horgan, but he encouraged anyone who is planning to stay in BC to get the plates on their car switched over to BC plates. “There is a high degree of certainty that we want to keep our borders closed until our neighbours get a better handle on COVID-19,” the Premier said today.
The ongoing pandemic:
“I’m asking for calm and for people to be respectful,” Premier Horgan said today.
“This is a virus that does not distinguish,” he said, as in infection with COVID-19 being out there to impact anyone regardless of race or income. He said that COVID-19 is “insidious and affects us all equally”.
He called for people to be “respectful of each other and help each other in these most difficult of times”.
“We have solid results because of how we have treated each other. We will continue to take the leadership offered by public health officials, we’ll get through this,” Premier Horgan said about his province.
Pausing on addiction supports:
The BC NDP government approach to helping people who are dealing with opioid and other drug addictions is to “give people a chance to take opportunities to deal with their addictions”. He added: “We should be doing everything we can to address that for people. Minister Darcy is making progress, but we’re taking a pause because we don’t have support of the legislature at this time.”
The BC government had proposed legislation that would force youth under 19 to stay in hospital after an overdose. There was pushback on aspects of civil liberties.
The province announced its plan to amend the Mental Health Act last month, saying youth could be kept in care for up to seven days in order to stabilize them and create a treatment plan that would involve parents.