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B.C. not contemplating teacher layoffs: premier

Last Updated May 7, 2020 at 2:06 pm PDT

FILE - Premier John Horgan announced $5 million for virtual mental health during the pandemic on Thursday, April 9, 2020. (Courtesy John Horgan, Twitter)

John Horgan dismisses concerns about layoffs due to expected lack of international students

Vacancies at post-secondary institutions can be filled by local students, he says

Horgan also advises would-be travellers to stay home, if possible

VICTORIA (NEWS 1130) — B.C.’s premier is quickly dismissing concerns about teachers being laid off due to pandemic travel restrictions preventing international students from attending school in the province.

“Certainly, we’re not contemplating layoffs,” John Horgan said Thursday following an announcement on restarting elective surgeries in B.C.

“Quite the contrary. Education is the key to success for individuals and communities. It’s the great equalizer in our society. We have been committed from the beginning to expand access to education for all British Columbians and we’ll continue to do that.”

Horgan also said vacancies at post-secondary institutions can be filled by local students enrolled in skills-training, or healthcare-related and other medical-field programs.

“So we are fairly confident that our post-secondary sector has the capacity to take in those new students, because of other work that we’ve done on adult basic education and English language learning. We’ll be able to meet the needs of the community right there in British Columbia.”

He also said the province is working with university presidents on how to provide spaces for international students, and expect to have more to say in the weeks ahead how the latter will fit into elementary and secondary schools.

“International students may well have a key role to play in that, and that will be determined district by district.”

On Wednesday, the province unveiled its four-phase re-start plan, which outlined a partial return to school in September at both the elementary, secondary and post-secondary levels.

Horgan said international travel could be months away, while doing so within Canada might resume later in the summer.

He was asked about cross-border travel to Alberta Thursday and said, for now, it’s better if people stayed home.

“Stay home. Enjoy where you live. Do the best you can to work together to flatten the curve and ensure that as the summer progresses, we can have more interaction with our neighbours,” Horgan added.

“But for now, it would be better if you stayed home.”

Horgan says the same advice extends to all British Columbians hoping to travel outside their home towns this summer.

Earlier in the day, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced the federal government has signed a $4 billion agreement with provinces and territories to increase the wages of essential workers in the COVID-19 pandemic. Provinces are expected to pay for 25 per cent of the program.

“This is a cost-shared program. All the provinces have agreed with the federal government,” Horgan said.

“Many of the front-line workers in residential care, for example, where some of the focus of the federal government has been, are already well above what the threshold number would be,” Horgan said.

“So British Columbia will be developing a plan in concert with the federal government that meets the needs of a broader group of employees. But we are grateful to have the federal resources and we’re going to be doing our part to address the need in that area.”