So we have wrapped up what is without doubt one of the most eventful sessions of parliament. In the midst of the what has been one of greatest challenges our province has faced in the 21st Century, so many of my colleagues and parliamentary staff have worked tirelessly to ensure that we could carry out the vital business of the house and I cannot thank them enough for their hard work and dedication over these past six weeks.
Following the theme of this session, the drama and excitement ensued until the house rose on Friday afternoon when the B.C. Legislature wrapped up its business in a frustrating exchange between the Premier and the BC Liberal Leader Andrew Wilkinson.
Traditionally, the Premier’s Estimates is the Official Opposition’s opportunity to bring forward any questions and concerns about government policies that may still be looming over the heads of British Columbians — but it also serves as an opportunity for the Premier to provide clarity and to tie up any loose ends that may still be hanging.
But as Andrew Wilkinson went toe-to-toe with John Horgan in a fiery exchange throughout the last day of the legislative session, the Premier proved he was determined to leave the many loose ends of his government’s COVID response plan untied.
Through a stream of dismissals, distractions, and insults, the Premier did very little to answer any of the questions brought forward by the Opposition, including his inability to be clear about B.C.’s unemployment numbers or supports, his inaction to save the ailing tourism sector, how he intends to handle the impending $6.9 billion in tax deferral payments due at the end of September, or why his government continues to do nothing to address the skyrocketing increases in strata insurance costs being experienced by more than 1 million British Columbians residing in condos and townhouses. The NDP also have no plan for industry, small businesses, or economic recovery!
And, of course, no NDP plan would be (in)complete without making the already-murky back-to-school plan even murkier for parents and families. The million-dollar question, which should have been a walk in the park for Horgan if his government had actually produced a comprehensive education plan, was relatively straight forward: “Why is your government forcing students back to classrooms without hybrid and distance learning options available for those who need it?”
This question has been asked by thousands of parents across the province who are raising very serious concerns about sending their kids back into classrooms. At a time when British Columbia is recording more daily cases of COVID than we have seen since April, households with immune-compromised children or multi-generational families are seeking other learning options for their children. Troublingly, the NDP isn’t offering the same hybrid learning options that were available in June and most of the distance learning programs that are available are already being overwhelmed with applications.
Despite repeating the question on four separate occasions, the Premier never could get his answer straight, with responses that included “asked and answered,” and “parents should get in touch with their principals.”
Time is running out and passing the buck to school districts will mean lines at the principal's office and more confusion for families and teachers. In the coming weeks, you can guarantee that we will continue to press this government for clarity to ensure that our children will have the learning options available to keep them safe come September.
Dan Davies is the MLA for Peace River North.