Premier John Horgan was in Maple Ridge with Dr.Victoria Lee, for a health care announcement on Thursday morning. (Colleen Flanagan/THE NEWS)

Q&A with Premier John Horgan in Maple Ridge

Talks health care, COVID-19 and Canucks

Premier John Horgan was in Surrey and Maple Ridge on Thursday morning for a pair of health care announcements.

In Surrey he spoke about a new regional cancer centre at the second Surrey hospital, and in Maple Ridge he announced a urgent and primary care centre will be located in Haney Place Mall on a permanent basis.

Then the premier offered time for an interview with the Maple Ridge News on a range of topics:

Q. With the announcement of the new cancer centre in Surrey, how does that benefit people in Maple Ridge?

A. “It brings cancer services closer to the community. One in every two British Columbians will be touched by cancer in their lifetime. I myself am a cancer survivor.”

“To have a facility, a state-of-the-art facility in a new acute care hospital that’s just down the road is good news for the region, and particularly good news for Fraser Health.”

Q. Reports say B.C. and Canada are behind in numbers of hospital beds per capita compared with other countries. Does government need to build more hospitals?

A. In addition to the second hospital in Surrey, he said “we are building a new hospital in Terrace, in Dawson Creek, in Fort St. James, I announced a new tower in Prince George, Burnaby, the New St. Paul’s Hospital in Vancouver, Ridge Meadows has been upgraded, Langley… so we have been focusing on putting the capital into the health care system so that we have the beds that a growing population and an aging population needs.”

“We’ve been taking a big bite out of the deficiencies, not just in the Lower Mainland, but right across the province.”

READ ALSO: Premier in Maple Ridge for health care announcement

Q. There were 351 COVID-19 cases in B.C. this week. The number was half that in June, are you concerned about the rise?

A. “We knew there would be a spike when we had more interactions. The more people came out of their homes and started interacting, and the economy started going again, we knew that transmission would increase.”

“What we are confident about is our contact tracing – our ability to connect the genesis of a transmission, and connect all the people who may be affected.”

“That’s been challenged… out of control houseboat parties in the Okanagan, mass drumming on the beaches of the Lower Mainland – that’s just not acceptable in a time of a global pandemic, and people should know better than to behave that way. We need to remind ourselves that we are far from out of the woods.”

Q. If cases continue to rise, would you reconsider opening schools in September?

A. “Part of getting to new normal is to have things that we are accustomed to, like school starting in September being part of our traditions again, part of our regular behaviour. But we are guided by the science on this. We are not driving a particular agenda. Minister Rob Fleming is talking to trustees, superintendents, parents, teachers, support staff in our schools, to make sure we are doing everything to keep people safe.”

He added the government will amend its plans daily if need be, and according to the needs of different school districts.

Q. What is the province doing to prepare for the day when we have a vaccination?

A. “What we’re doing is preparing for the flu season. And we’re bringing in about half a million more vaccines for garden-variety flu than we ever have before, because we believe, and we’re grateful, that more people are going to recognize that their personal health can be aided by taking certain steps. A flu vaccine will help with regular local influenzas that start in September and into the fall.

“With respect to vaccines or other therapies for COVID-19 our public health officials are preparing for that eventuality, but we’re a long way from that.”

Q. Are you watching the Canucks, and do you have any regrets that Vancouver could not be an NHL hub city?

A. “I love hockey. To be able to go on TSN talk radio and talk sports rather than politics was something that I really quite enjoyed. I’ve been a sports fan my entire life. Team sports saved me from a different trajectory in my younger days. So I’m a huge Canuck fan, and if they had been able to bring the hub city to Vancouver that would have been fantastic, but I’m just happy hockey is happening now.

“I look forward to the day when we can fill stands again and enjoy interactions with our friends and our families and cheer on our local teams.”

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