Saving jobs and even creating new jobs will be a key theme in the B.C. government's Phase Two strategies to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, Premier John Horgan announced yesterday (Wednesday May 13).
With the support of $120 million of new targetted COVID response funding from the federal government, Horgan said B.C. will accelerate the restoration of more than 2,000 orphan and inactive wells in the Peace River region, with input from First Nations and community interests to help decide which sites will be done first and the jobs going mainly to existing oil and gas field service companies and contractors based in B.C., with registration, office and operations in B.C.
"This program will support upwards of 1,200 jobs, helping B.C. workers, the environment and our economy during these challenging times," Horgan told a televised news conference in Victoria, clearly signalling that the COVID crisis is regarded as much more than a public health issue and includes social, political and economic ramifications.
The announcement came shortly after the B.C. cabinet had met and officially extended the province's state of emergency for at least another two weeks and likely for much longer even though the latest COVID statistics indicate the rate of COVID infections in B.C. is relatively low and not increasing.
"The Province is supporting jobs for B.C. workers in oil and gas service companies to clean up the environment and help restart the economy," the news release said, echoing a theme raised by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on April 17, and it included some words from Seamus O'Regan, Canada's Minister of Natural Resources: "Thanks to the co-operation between the governments of Canada and British Columbia, this program will mean a cleaner environment and much needed jobs for workers in B.C."
The well work, subject to reaching a final agreement, will be in three categories:
* The Dormant Sites Reclamation Program will provide $100 million to reclaim dormant oil and gas sites, which are wells that have been inactive for five consecutive years and are unlikely to be returned to service. This program will provide up to $100,000, or 50% of total costs, whichever is less.
* The Orphan Sites Supplemental Reclamation Program will provide $15 million to reclaim orphan oil and gas sites where the operator is insolvent, no longer exists or cannot be located. This program will be administrated by the BC Oil and Gas Commission (BCOGC) and will be in addition to $27 million in planned BCOGC clean up of such wells for 2020-21.
* The Legacy Sites Reclamation Program will provide $5 million to address the legacy impacts of historical oil and gas activities that continue to have environmental impacts, such as on wildlife habitat or on the traditional use by Indigenous peoples.
"Through these three programs, we are accelerating the cleanup of thousands of orphan and inactive wells," said Bruce Ralston, B.C.'s Minister of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources. "This allows us to restore lands of important environmental and cultural relevance, while also supporting local jobs and local economies in B.C.'s northeast."
Ralston noted there are 7,685 dormant well sites in B.C. (meaning inactive for five years and unlikely to be re-activated), 357 orphan wells (in which the operator is insolvent or gone) and a few legacy wells that are impacting indigenous people, wildlife and/or the environment.
Phase Two begins next week
The well-cleanups announcement was intended to be a symbolic focal point for all of the B.C. NDP government's strategies to deal with the COVID crisis, which officially begins Phase Two next Tuesday (May 19, the day after the Victoria Day holiday) and apparently could last quite a while, conceivably even years - with Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix later indicating in a separate news conference today that the physical distancing and other anti-COVID measures such as masks and gloves could be required to be continued for many more months or even years to come.
Henry indicated that her emergency measures will soon be amended to allow restaurants, hair salons, churches and presumably other service businesses to resume operations starting Tuesday but only if they are implementing new measures to suppress the spread of the COVID virus, such as installing plexiglass screens, frequently cleaning things like door handles and limiting the seating so that dining tables (for example) are at least six feet apart. And the maximum crowd size will remain at 50, or less if the venue is small.
Similarly, Horgan indicated provincial parks will
So some more commerce will be resuming next week in B.C. but it won't be under old normal conditions, and schools similarly may soon return but maybe with split classes each attending for only half-days, and perhaps new approaches when the next school year begins in September (with more details expected Friday).
"This is not a flip of a switch, it's a beginning of a process," said Horgan, emphasizing that new guidelines coming out in the next few days will not be a back-to-normal.
Asked about medical, dental and physio services, Horgan said the guidelines are still being worked on. "We want to ensure we get it right," he said, noting B.C. will have to keep pace with changes in other jurisdictions too and welcoming suggestions for new programs such as regarding protective equipment.
Health Minister Dix provided a few more details in a separate subsequent news conference, noting 16,872 surgeries have been cancelled so far in B.C. and while the government is "fully committed" to a full renewal of surgeries it will take some time [at least a year] to achieve.
"Our job now is to prevent a resurgence of COVID19 in B.C.," said Dix but for Horgan, Ralston and many others it seems a resurgence in economic activity is wanted even more.
Horgan eyes hockey bonanza
That was evident when Horgan seemed quite happy to answer a question about his negotiations with the National Hockey League and the NHL Players' Association to have B.C. serve as a hub for the hockey league to finish its interrupted season, perhaps with a few other such hubs in the U.S. and Canada, in which playoff teams or perhaps all teams would play in a sort of round-robin knock-out tournament for the Stanley Cup, with all games televised but with few or zero fans in the stands.
Horgan reported that he has been in discussions with NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and other interests and telling them about how B.C. would be an ideal venue because it has a low rate of COVID infections and several good arenas available in Vancouver and around the province plus lots of suitable hotel rooms to help host such an event.
While I shouldn't try to take sole credit for Premier Horgan's sudden emphasis on the job-protection and job-creation aspects in his government's Phase 2 responses to the COVID crisis, I can make note that it is a direction I also have advocated for a long time and most notably I advocated for it again recently in a column published in West Shore Voice News on April 23 - (which circulates in Horgan's home riding) - plus I sent it to my own list of subscribers and readers and also had it posted on the blog, “Thoughts on BC Politics and More” - so it DID get noticed!
It may not require a degree in rocket science to be able to deduce that job creation should be a key plank in any government's policy or strategy on anything but it's still a fact that job creation was the first item Premier Horgan mentioned when he announced his government's new Phase 2 post-COVID direction - and I for one am glad he did!
In the previous issue of The Daily Twigg the opening sentence said "with people disappearing, conspiracies being revealed and science fiction maybe proving too eerily true", but when I rushed to broadcast it by email I had only briefly dealt with the conspiracies against President Trump being revealed and I had completely forgotten to explain the part about science fiction coming true.
I apologize for that but I do still want to explain it. It was a reference I found on Twitter to a science fiction book about a corona virus that was written by famous author Steven King in 1979 and which became the basis of an episode of the Dead Zone that aired on July 13, 2003 and it even included a reference to Chloroquine being an effective cure! - which is something that President Trump for some strange reason had speculated on until his advisers persuaded it was a bogus notion. Oh?? If you want more info, check the links below.
My thanks to Ned Nikolov of @NikolovScience for drawing it to my attention - another example of truth being stranger than fiction??
dr g force
It was rather quick of Fauci to claim that Chloroquine was ineffective. https://bbc.com/news/51980731 https://thelancet.com/journals/laninf/article/PIIS1473-3099(20)30296-6/fulltext
When I saw this, I thought to myself, what are the odds for us to be now in the midst of a REAL-LIFE coronavirus epidemic that was so eerily accurately portrayed in the Dead Zone episode "Plague" aired on Jul 13, 2003?? Does Art predict Life, or is Life "modeled" after Art?
Is it possible that the #COVID19 "epidemic" was actually modeled (simulated) after Steven King's 1979 novel "Dead Zone"? What do you think?
Dead Zone, 2003 Episode Plague, Predicts Coronavirus Outbreak and...This is a clip summarizing a 2003 episode of a TV show called Dead Zone, the episode name is plague. During the episode, someone takes a flight in from China...