April 2, 2020

The BC Ecosocialist Party is hearing from more and more municipal government officials who had plans to protect their communities from the COVID-19 global pandemic, but can no longer act because the provincial government has removed their local emergency authority. “Community leaders around BC have had their hands tied by a sloppy and possibly illegal removal of their emergency powers by BC’s Solicitor-General, Mike Farnworth, following orders from his boss, John Horgan,” stated Stuart Parker, a party spokesperson.

“We are hearing from municipal leaders in southwestern BC that they would like their municipalitie to have the power to temporarily seize empty suites and hotel rooms for people couch-surfing and sleeping rough, extremely dangerous practices during a pandemic, not just for those without homes, but for everyone. Similarly, municipalities are no longer free to suspend rent and mortgage payments. Since the BC government stripped them of their emergency powers a week ago, they cannot even entertain such measures,” Parker continued.

Emergency Powers Stripped to Keep Work Camps Open

“But what worries me more, especially as a Northerner, is that these measures seem to have been taken in response to Fort Saint John and other northern municipalities considering closing the work camps housing the people who are building the Site C dam and other unnecessary energy projects like the Coastal Gas Link pipeline. The BC government has now both ordered frightened industrial and construction workers back to work by lifting the limits on crowd size for its megaprojects, and declared this work to be “essential,” so that companies cannot issue layoff notices, and workers cannot receive the notices required for federal assistance. But not only that--they have tied the hands of local governments that do want to protect workers, local populations, and overworked and understaffed local hospitals, preventing them from taking the measures necessary to save lives. In what world is stopping local efforts to protect people from COVID-19 ‘doing all you can’?” Parker added.

The BC Ecosocialist Party is consulting with legal experts to see if the Solicitor-General’s seizure of local emergency powers can be challenged in the courts, given that the original seizure was made by a poorly-worded order-in-council and not by an act of the legislature. “If necessary,” the party’s Chief Financial Officer, Alannah New-Small stated, “the party is prepared to raise money for a legal challenge to restore the ability of communities throughout BC to use the best on-the-ground local knowledge available to save lives.”

The party is also working with non-partisan groups concerned about the entangled issues of the work camps and suspended emergency powers.