B.C. Premier John Horgan said Wednesday he believes the province's economic restart is off to a good start.
“On balance I’m pretty satisfied with how we’re underway," he said.
Wednesday marks the second day of the second phase of the provincial government's plan to safely and gradually re-open B.C.'s economy. As of Tuesday, many non-essential businesses across sectors – from retail, to health, to hospitality – have the ability to re-open their doors, provided they have the appropriate COVID-19 plan in place, and have taken sector-specific steps to ensure the health and safety of employees and customers.
Horgan noted that while there have been some bumps along B.C.'s road to recovery, the key to success will be approaching the province's transition with kindness and calm. That includes not forcing the opening of businesses that are not ready to open, and not forcing employees to return to work.
Last week, the provincial government announced that in-class K-12 education will resume on a voluntary basis starting June 1. Horgan called the partial resumption of in-person operations a "dry run" for what a full physically distanced school year could look like come September.
“We would not have opened up schools again in June if we did not believe it was safe to do so," he said, clarifying that child care for parents hoping to return to work was not the impetus for the decision.
“That’s not what it is," he said. “That’s not the role and function of K-12 education.”
Horgan said the province finds itself in a different position than it did in January, and that its 10-year plan to roll-out universal, affordable child care throughout B.C. "has been abruptly stopped because of COVID-19." Simply accelerating the plan to meet pressing child care needs is not feasible in the short term, he explained.
Asked about whether B.C. may pursue a universal paid sick leave program, Horgan said he firmly believes the federal government should be part of such a program.
“We’re prepared to go it alone if need be. I do have allies in the federal government who appreciate the initiative I’ve been promoting”
In his update on Wednesday, Horgan expressed his condolences to the family of Canadian Forces Snowbirds member Capt. Jennifer Casey, who was killed in a plane crash on Sunday.
He also denounced the rise of racism across the province.
Horgan told British Columbians to expect to see the legislature resume either June 15 or June 22, but to not expect a return to normal.
"It will look unlike what it did even in our one-day session after COVID-19 came to British Columbia," said Horgan, who added all three of B.C.'s major political parties are working together on shaping the return.
He said the provincial government will be focused on passing the budget, completing the budget estimates process and on "a modest number of pieces of legislation that we believe are required to keep our agenda moving forward."
"It's going to be new, it's going to be innovative, it's going to be a challenge."