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B.C. premier not ruling out provincial sick pay program

Citynews 1130 Vancouver

Last Updated May 20, 2020 at 8:58 pm PDT

FILE- B.C. Premier John Horgan speaks about a partnership between the province and City of Vancouver to create new child care spaces, in Vancouver, on Thursday July 4, 2019. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck)
Summary

Sick pay should be a national program with national leadership: premier

Horgan says second phase of restart plan is off to a good start

Premier also decries rise in racism in B.C.

VICTORIA (NEWS 1130) — B.C. could start its own sick-day program if the federal government doesn’t start a national one, according to Premier John Horgan.

“Well, it’s certainly on the table. I know I’m not ruling out anything,” he said regarding the provincial program during a weekly briefing Wednesday.

“I still believe that this should be a national program with national leadership because it has national consequences,” Horgan added.

“But we’re prepared to go it alone, if need be.”

Horgan said he has allies in the federal government who appreciate his initiative and he has calls Thursday with premiers, the prime minister and deputy prime minister.

“So, I’m going to hold fast to my position today and we’ll see what comes out of tomorrow,” he said. “But I still firmly believe that the federal government needs some part of this.”

Horgan has been suggesting since the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic in March that employers have a role in providing sick leave to workers, and that the latter stay home if they are feeling any symptoms.

Restart plan

Horgan also addressed businesses as the second phase of the province’s restart plan entered its second day.

As part of that, he said the province needs to make sure not to force the opening of a business that isn’t ready.

“And we want to make sure that we’re not forcing employees to go into situations that they are not comfortable with.”

He said the province has been working with WorkSafe BC and the public health officers to make sure employees and patrons feel safe when entering a business.

“I’m pretty satisfied with how we’re underway. We’ve got a lot of work to do and there are many sectors that are concerned that they don’t quite have the plan right for their success. We’ll keep working on that together. It will get a better outcome as a result,” he said.

Horgan rejected a call to fast-track a $10-per-day daycare program as a way to help parents return to the workforce.

Border controls

He addressed the U.S. border with Canada, and touted the requirement in B.C. for travellers returning to the province from outside the country to have a plan ready to self-isolate for 14 days.

“I think less than 150 people of up to 40,000 to 45,000 people who have come into British Columbia since the program was instituted, and were required a quarantine, they did not have a plan of their own,” Horgan said.

“That’s a very, very small number of people who aren’t with the program.”

Canada and the U.S. extended the border closure for non-essential travel on Wednesday until June 21.

“What happens after June 22, we don’t know,” Horgan said. “I’m just grateful that Canada and the United States have once again put in place restrictions at the border, and we’ll keep monitoring that so we get closer to the month ending, and then we’ll take another look at it.”

‘Racism unacceptable’

Lastly, Horgan said the provincial government has been working with other parties on ways to curb the rise of racism in B.C. during the pandemic.

“It is absolutely unacceptable to see this increase in people taking out their concerns or frustrations on people of color, people of a different religious perspective, people of a different sexual orientation hate has no place in British Columbia,” he added.

“I just can’t stress enough how it’s just no longer acceptable, and I’m grateful to see citizens standing up to racism when they see it.”