VICTORIA — A newly elected member of British Columbia's legislature became Canada's first politician to sign a pledge to the king at the start of a fall sitting.
It will focus on health care and high costs, while celebrating what's expected to be the last session for John Horgan as premier, New Democrat house leader Mike Farnworth said Monday.
The seven-week fall sitting started with the swearing-in of Liberal Elenore Sturko, who was elected last month in the Surrey South byelection.
Legislature clerk Kate Ryan-Lloyd told those gathered for the ceremony that Sturko is the first elected official in Canada to pledge an oath to King Charles since the recent death of the queen.
"As we acknowledge the passing of our former monarch, our new member of the legislative assembly will be pledging loyalty to His Majesty King Charles III, the first change of this kind in over 70 years, and I'm told is the first in Canada for a newly elected member," she said.
Farnworth said the government expects to introduce up to 20 bills this fall.
"There will definitely be, I think, a focus on the cost of living, health care, for example, and a range of issues on priorities the government has," he said at the legislature.
Farnworth said he couldn't elaborate on the details of the proposed legislation, other than suggest some bills will be "meaty."
The session starts with many of the same criticisms the New Democrats have faced in the past year over health-care troubles, including lack of emergency care in rural communities and a shortage of family doctors.
Liberal Leader Kevin Falcon told the legislature that B.C’s health-care system is collapsing under the NDP.
“The results we’re getting are just not working,” he said.
During question period, Liberal health critic Shirley Bond called on Health Minister Adrian Dix to leave his post.
“British Columbians expect better from their minister of health,” she said. “Will he do the right thing today, step aside and resign?”
Dix gave no indication of resigning.
"I'm going to continue to give everything I have," he said during question period.
Farnworth said Horgan's retirement as premier is "bittersweet," adding he's known him for 30 years.
Horgan announced last June that because of health reasons, he would leave his post as premier in December when the New Democrats choose a new party leader, and he would not run in the next provincial election expected in October 2024.
"I think he's leaving as possibly one of the most popular premiers, not only in the country, but certainly, I think, in the history of the province of B.C. Given the nature of politics in this province, that's no mean feat," Farnworth said.
Former attorney general David Eby and environmental activist Anjali Appadurai are contesting the NDP leadership race.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 3, 2022.
Dirk Meissner, The Canadian Press