The B.C. legislature seems to have finally returned to normal.
The crowds have returned. Question Period is once again a raucous affair where issues are making headlines.
Most recently, media reporters and camera crews reappeared in the legislature corridors after spending more than two years mostly asking questions of cabinet ministers over the phone.
Oh, the COVID-19 virus is still circulating. Last week, a handful of MLAs and legislature staff tested positive for the virus and had to self-isolate.
But like the rest of society, the legislature and its inhabitants and visitors are opting to go about things in as much a normal way as possible, ever mindful the virus could still strike at any moment.
Perhaps most importantly, what goes on in the legislature chamber itself is regaining its relevancy. While the current session is the fourth session since the pandemic was declared back in March 2020, the previous ones lacked a sense of import or meaning.
Much house business was done virtually and there was a noticeable lack of energy and enthusiasm in the place. Very little news coverage was generated, as all-things-COVID-19 dominated newscasts and newspapers.
This spring, however, things began to change as restrictions were eased and mandates ended or were limited. You must still show proof of vaccination to enter or work in the legislature, but masks are optional and there does not seem to be a limit on crowds (i.e. for tours or receptions).
Back to Question Period, the most visible and attended part of the session (it is also the loudest, as heckling has returned with a vengeance).
For the first time in more than two years, the BC Liberal opposition is starting to find some issues that have put the NDP government on the defensive from time to time.
While they continue to hammer away on the affordability issue, the BC Liberals have struck more fertile soil on two other issues, one of which has been around for years and another that has just recently rose to the fore.
The question of whether or not there are enough resources in the health-care system has been posed since the system was first created. The extraordinary pandemic knocked traditional health-care issues – waiting lists, surgery delays, a shortage of doctors and nurses – off the table but they have now returned.
Health Minister Adrian Dix has found himself on the defensive over a shortage of family doctors and the closure of some public health clinics. Slowly but surely, the usual controversies associated with health care are returning and are getting attention.
The other issue that, while not entirely new, has risen in profile is random street violence and the inability to keep perpetrators in custody.
Attorney-General David Eby has also found himself on the defensive as the B.C. Liberals release some eye-popping statistics about how many people commit hundreds of offences and yet never get criminally charged.
In response, Eby has appointed a two-person committee to study the situation for four months, a move that did little to mollify criticism.
Affordability, health care, the criminal system, changes to autism funding - the list of hot issues is getting long and relevant for both the government and the opposition and that is a good thing. Bring on the normalcy.
Keith Baldrey is chief political reporter for Global BC.