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Les Leyne: In throne speech, Horgan uses artful phrasing to highlight how we've 'pulled together'

The NDP government used some artful phrasing Tuesday to sidle by the dismaying behaviour on display by people who are apparently losing their grip over the pandemic restrictions.
Premier John Horgan holds a press conference after the throne speech at the legislature on Tuesday, Feb. 8, 2022. DARREN STONE, TIMES COLONIST

The NDP government used some artful phrasing Tuesday to sidle by the dismaying behaviour on display by people who are apparently losing their grip over the pandemic restrictions.

The throne speech noted that: “At a time when these same challenges have increased polarization and division around the world, people here in B.C. have pulled together.”

It was in the context of B.C.’s high vaccination rate and the sustained efforts by both health care workers fighting the pandemic and everyone involved in coping with the natural disasters. No question that’s worthy of note. But if Premier John Horgan thinks B.C. has avoided polarization and division, he wasn’t trying to travel anywhere on the weekend. Anyone in government who thinks this place is more harmonious than elsewhere when it comes to pandemic polarization is misreading the situation.

People are taken aback at how vehement the protesters and disrupters were. Even though they are a minority, the actions of some are dismaying enough to make you wonder if the political landscape has changed. Is this another example of the tiresome “new normal”?

The first inclination is to condemn the specific examples of disgusting behaviour that were on display in Ottawa. But that involves taking notice of them, which just plays into their hands. Better to play the long game, and recognize any group of a few hundred people is going to include a few individuals who are off the rails. Not many people blame Vancouver Canucks fans specifically for the 2011 Stanley Cup riot in Vancouver. So condemning the weekend disruptions entirely on angry, frightened objectors to health restrictions is painting with too broad a brush. Everyone knows how unpredictable a jittery, excited crowd can get.

Horgan was relatively restrained speaking to media later, saying he understands absolutely that “people are done with this.” But he said B.C. won’t be removing restrictions in a reckless, cavalier manner, “just because people are honking their horns.

“We want to make sure that the sacrifices … made over the past two years are not just thrown away because of some noise on the legislative lawn, or in the capital city of Canada.”

To offer some hope, the timing “through the rest of the pandemic” was characterized in the throne speech — optimistically — in months, not years. The restrictions and mandates are still up to the public health officials. Other provinces are announcing schedules to remove them. B.C.’s tentative, “subject to…” stance is to relax some of them in two weeks. If there’s any discretionary decisions to be made, officials might be leaning towards sooner rather than later, based on other provincial plans.

The other wave of resentment that was obliquely referenced in the throne speech was about the Royal B.C. Museum. The poorly considered shutdown of the most popular attraction – Old Town – has created enough upset that it was officially recognized in the NDP government’s official agenda for the next year.

The speech said “the long overdue process to modernize the RBCM will also continue, with more details on the scope and budget to be decided in coming months.”

That back-handedly confirms once again that the exhibit was shut down without the slightest idea of what to do next.

The other scrap of information that’s open to interpretation is that once the modernization is complete, “the RBCM’s exhibits will continue to tell the story of our past. But it will include everyone in these stories — especially communities that were previously overlooked, ignored or left out.”

There are only two sure takeaways from those mentions. One is that local boy John Horgan is aware of how much animosity has been created in his hometown through the handling of the decolonization effort.

The other is that it will take years to come up with an alternative.

Just So You Know: As if their hands weren’t already full with sensitive museum issues, the government also committed once again to building a brand-new Chinese Canadian Museum in Vancouver’s Chinatown.

The government is aware that excitement about this news is dampened by the fact that it’s at least the third NDP throne speech to promise the project.

So the latest mention goes further — it’s going to “take a major step” and it’s going to be in the days ahead.

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