Osoyoos Times Staff
The Government of B.C. is now calling on municipal bylaw enforcement to enforce the provincial health officer’s orders regarding business closures and public gatherings.
The measures invoked for the first time under a provincial state of emergency were announced by Mike Farnworth, Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General, along with Premier John Horgan Thursday in Victoria.
“Follow the orders, follow the law, we’ll all get through this together,” Horgan said.
The public safety minister made multiple orders including enforcement Thursday, with the province establishing a new provincial supply chain coordination unit to take “a more active role in co-ordinating essential goods and services movement by land, air, marine and rail; and suspending any bylaws that restrict goods delivery at any time of day.”
British Columbians could see “fines or even jail time,” for not following provincial health orders to not gather in groups, or keeping a business open when it has been ordered to close.
The province also banned the secondary resale of food and medical supplies, personal protective equipment, cleaning and other essential supplies and “restricting quantities of items purchased at point of sale.”
The province stated in a press release that all passenger and car-ferry services will provide “minimum service levels and priority access for residents, and essential goods and workers.”
The provincial government is suspending local states of emergency specific to the COVID-19 pandemic, except for the City of Vancouver; giving municipal councils the ability to hold more flexible meetings to expedite decisions; and co-ordinating potential use of local publicly owned facilities, like community centres, for self-isolation, testing, medical care, warehousing and distribution.
Farnworth added, “Many local governments, First Nations and partners have stepped up to make sure they have prepared to protect their communities from the impacts of COVID-19. Today’s measures will make sure communities are taking necessary steps, in co-ordination with the province, to get ready should more action be required to combat COVID-19.”
Any business or service that has not been ordered to close, and is also not identified on the essential service list, may stay open if it can adapt its services and workplace to the orders and recommendations of the provincial health officer.
“By issuing a series of ministerial orders, we recognize that this is not forever, but it is for now. With everyone stepping in and respecting the extraordinary means we have to take, we will overcome this,” said Adrian Dix, Minister of Health.
Farnworth declared a provincial state of emergency on March 18, 2020, after the provincial health officer declared a public health emergency on March 17. The Province previously declared states of emergency in 1998, 2003, 2017 and 2018 — all related to wildfires. In each of those previous declarations, necessary actions were able to be taken without issuing minister’s orders under the Emergency Program Act.