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“I am a Canadian, free to speak without fear, free to worship in my own way, free to stand for what I think right, free to oppose what I believe wrong, or free to choose those who shall govern my country. This heritage of freedom I pledge to uphold for myself and all mankind.” ~~ John G. Diefenbaker

FURSTENAU -- Rapid testing, paid sick leave, Question Period, and more ...


We often compare our pandemic responses to other countries and other provinces. Indeed, we can and should learn from the failures and successes of other provinces and countries.

The maritime provinces have been very aggressive in their response to COVID-19. On Monday, with a population of less than a million and a total active case count of 323, Nova Scotia processed 11,335 COVID tests and reported 66 positive cases. Rapid tests are available to anyone in Nova Scotia over the age of 16, whether they are exhibiting symptoms or not. 

B.C. has 2.7 million rapid tests available but currently only for approved work sites. We have deployed less than ten percent of the tests provided by the federal government, and administered less than one percent of those tests

This week in Question Period, I asked the Minister of Health if the province was planning on using rapid tests as another tool to prevent virus transmission.

Another important topic this week was paid sick leave.

On Tuesday, the Premier finally announced an intention to fix the gaps in the federal sick pay program. People have been forced to choose between staying home when they feel unwell or providing for their families. It leaves all workers much more vulnerable to COVID.

I was happy to hear of this intention, but I am concerned about the timeline.

There are still no details on an immediate program. Like many of the big issues facing British Columbia, this government seems to be waiting on federal leadership instead of being proactive. Creating a program to fix the gaps on paid sick leave should never have been put on the shelf, hoping that another level of government would take the lead.

Government needs to learn and adapt at all times in this - and other - emergencies. We need:

  • clear outcomes identified and effectively communicated by government, and
  • policies, informed by data and evidence, that get us to those outcomes.

I watched with great interest the SFU event "The Strategic Path out of COVID-19" on Thursday evening, with speakers David Alston, Dr. Lisa Barrett, Dr. Caroline Colijn, Nick Diamond, Dr. Kelley Lee, Dr. Amy Tan. Moderated by Andy Longhurst.

What was clear from this panel of experts is that there are several tools that can ensure infection numbers go down and stay down. Vaccines, are of course incredibly important, but so is effectively managing our borders so that new variants don't keep coming into Canada and BC (many countries have done this very well), as well as testing widely and aggressively.

We all want our lives and our communities to return to normal, and we can see from other countries and provinces that clear, decisive responses do achieve this.

Let's hope that here in BC, government shows a commitment to learning from best practices so that we can have the best possible outcomes in our province.

Sonia Furstenau ... is the Member of the Legislative Assembly (MLA) for Cowichan Valley, and Leader of the BC Green Party.


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