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Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry on B.C.'s fall election

"I would like to assure you the B.C. COVID-19 response will continue uninterrupted."
Dr. Bonnie Henry provides an update on B.C.'s COVID-19 response on Sept. 14, 2020. Photo: Province of British Columbia

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry is doing her best to assure British Columbians the upcoming election, set for Oct. 24, will not negatively impact the province's COVID-19 response.

During Monday's press conference, Dr. Henry responded to multiple questions regarding her involvement in calling for an election, including whether Premier Horgan sought her out for consultation.

"I can say that Premier Horgan did not ask for my advice around calling an election, and nor would I expect him to ... that is part of the political process I am not a part of.

"My role is to provide advice on the health of the population and to put in measures that are needed to ensure that activities that need to happen can happen in our community, and that is what I will continue to focus on."

She says the way the province reports on new COVID-19 cases will remain the same — daily updates Monday through Friday and two press conferences a week — with the notable exception of Minister of Health Adrian Dix.

"It would not be appropriate for him to be on the campaign and have the opportunity to speak publicly twice a week," says Henry.

"But he will very much be involved in ensuring the ongoing management of the crises, along with Minister James who is the caretaker Minister during this period." 

Dr. Henry has been working with Elections BC since March, when municipal elections were originally planned to take place towards the end of the month.

She says her team recognized the "potential for elections as this pandemic progressed" at the municipal, provincial and federal levels, and have been working on guidelines to help facilitate the safe handling of an election. 

"I would like to assure you the B.C. COVID-19 response will continue uninterrupted, and it is my priority ... the guidelines we've come up with include how political parties and their candidates need to keep themselves, their staff and volunteers and their communities safe during the campaign. We've also outlined how elections processes need to occur to ensure that everybody in the province remains safe and these can be handled safely."

The upcoming election, and ultimately the result, will not have an impact on her ability to enact public orders relating to COVID-19 in the province, says Dr. Henry.

"My powers are actually independent, so they don't depend necessarily on the ministers. Much of the powers under the Public Health Act to take actions, to issue orders, are things that I can do independently."

However, she says it is important to her that the work is done collaboratively for everyone's best interests, and will continue with daily team updates involving Minister James, Minister Dix and Deputy Minister of Health Stephen Brown. 

Dr. Henry will be joined by the Chief Electoral Officer on Tuesday, Sept. 22 to brief the public on specific plans for the upcoming election. 

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