The legislature is back in session in Victoria today, for what’s expected to be a short session.

 Lt.-Gov. Janet Austin read the speech from the throne, recognizing the two crises facing the province: the opioid overdose crisis that has been killing over 100 people a month, and the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Premier John Horgan has said he hopes to quickly pass a bill to provide one-time tax-free payments of $1,000 dollars to eligible families, and $500 to qualifying individuals.

Austin says the province is focused more on the short-term challenges brought on by COVID-19.

The speech comes at a time when new treatments and vaccines offer better days ahead, but the current wave of COVID-19 continues to pose urgent challenges in the short term.

Austin says preparations are underway for when a vaccine becomes available.

“The focus will be distributing it quickly and safely, beginning with those most at risk,” she added.

Austin says first and foremost, the government will help people, communities and businesses to implement whatever public-health protections are necessary to address outbreaks. 

She noted that “key investments in health care” will allow more patients to receive treatment at home, reduce wait times, and train and hire more doctors and nurses.

Austin says the government will also take “significant steps” to assist small- and medium-sized businesses in weathering the economic storm caused by COVID-19. 

“Focusing now on beating the virus will allow British Columbia to move as quickly as possible to address the economic recovery and its broader priorities: investing in people, strengthening communities, and supporting jobs and growth in a clean-energy future,” Austin said. “Government’s plans along these themes will be set out in more detail in a new speech from the throne in the spring.

“We will continue to do everything we can to keep people safe and healthy through this pandemic, as we’re focused on recovering from this crisis in a way that supports everyone in B.C.,” Premier Horgan said.