Premier John Horgan says there is good reason for optimism that B.C. has contained the COVID-19 virus and is making strides in reopening its economy.
He cited a $500 million investment announced by CN Rail in B.C. and the resumption of two dozen film and TV productions in B.C. as signs of confidence in B.C.'s business climate.
“There's great reason for optimism as we look at how our restart has been going across the province,” Horgan said in a news briefing today (July 9). “We've continued to see relatively low cases, new cases, of COVID-19, which speaks to the best approach that we could come up with, which was a gradual restart of the economy.
"We've seen some really positive indicators when it comes to public transit, ferry use, all going up. Not even remotely close to the numbers we had pre-pandemic, but we've seen successes: more and more people are coming out of their homes, participating in the economy, going to restaurants, shopping in retail outlets and participating broadly speaking in the restart of our economy.
“There are increasing numbers of companies that are looking at British Columbia as having successfully flattened the curve.”
Horgan added that B.C. was the first province in Canada to trial a resumption of in-class schooling, and is therefore better prepared for a partial reopening of schools in the fall.
“We are the only province in the country that got kids back in a classroom in the past school year so that we can have good data and a better understanding of the challenges we'll face come September,” said Horgan.
Horgan was asked to weigh in on a controversy between an indigenous activist group protesting the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion and two First Nations in the Kamloops region that support the project.
Recently, the chiefs of the Simpcw and Tk'emlúps te Secwépemc First Nations have raised concerns about a protest encampment set up in the pipeline's corridor north of Kamloops by the Tiny House Warriors.
The elected chiefs support the pipeline project and said they fear an escalation of violence at the encampment. They have called on the Tiny House Warriors to leave, and on the province to enforce the law.
Asked about controversy, Horgan placed the responsibility for dealing with illegal blockades on the police and the “title holders on the land” -- in other words, the Simpcw and Tk'emlúps te Secwépemc First Nations themselves.
“Obviously I defer to the chief to make determinations on her land about what happens there,” Horgan said.
The Horgan government opposed the pipeline's expansion and went to court to prevent it, although it lost its legal challenges.
He reiterated his government's opposition to the project, but said that now that the courts have ruled against the province and in favour of the project going ahead, it's not up to him to order police to take any actions against protesters.
“I don't direct law enforcement,” he said. “If there are laws being broken, the police should address that.”
He added he would be happy to speak to the chiefs about their concerns, and added that the apparent inability or unwillingness for police to act was why a review of the police act is needed.
“I appreciate their frustration,” Horgan said. “And this is a challenge and why it is so important that we do a review of the police act, as we're undertaking right now.
“Law enforcement doesn't know, from day to day, I think, where their responsibility begins and ends. My view is that if laws are being broken, police should respond. And if the chief and other community members feel that their liberty is being impinged by other people, they should call the cops.”