John Horgan: “This is a crisis situation.” Top issues:

  • Supporting businesses
  • Impact on Education
  • Inter-governmental cooperation

Employment standards act will be modified to prevent layoffs should someone have to stay home due to illness. The province will lobby the federal government to ensure that Employment Insurance act does not “short change” people in crisis. Financial supports will be available to people in businesses. The details will be rolled out when the province understands what the federal government is offering.

Rob Fleming (Education)

  • In-school instruction for K-12 throughout BC has been indefinitely suspended
  • Schools have been instructed to insure continuity of learning
  • Teachers will be prepared to ensure continuity of learning when the March break is over, in an appropriate means
  • Every student will receive a final mark
  • Graduation assessments will be postponed (eg, numeracy assessments)
  • All students set to graduate will graduate
  • There are 57 learning environments currently in BC, the entire curriculum is also available online
  • Parents and guardians are asked to speak to their students, and explain that these decisions were made to protect them. Today’s decisions were not made lightly
  • The actions taken today are temporary
  • The re-opening of schools will be announced when it is known
  • Childcare services being offered on school grounds will also be impacted. Note, this is a fluid situation, and once they have an update, they will forward that information.

Carole James (Finance)

  • We’re all in this together. We are looking at all the options right now.
  • We’re first focussed on people’s health
  • Any actions have to work together with the federal government
  • BC has a strong economic foundation, but COVID-19 will have global and local impacts. BC’s economy will be impacted, and a deficit is likely
  • Workers in precarious situation, small struggling businesses, please know they are working on how they can and how they must respond in the immediate future
  • Government has your back, together we will get through this. This is a marathon not a sprint.
    1. Make sure services and supports are in place to protect citizens
    2. Work with federal government initiatives to bring in BC relief
    3. Build recovery
  • The feds are still working on the details of the $1Billion aid package to Canadians.
  • The feds have said they will speed up the EI access process and to extend the EI process. James is hoping to hear on this tomorrow
  • We need to heed the advice of the medical experts
  • We have a healthy supply chain of food and goods coming into BC. THERE IS NO NEED TO OVERSTOCK YOUR SUPPLIES. Doing so puts the more vulnerable at risk (seniors, single parents, etc.)

Horgan answered a question on daycares, saying that the current recommendation is that childcare programs remain available. He did note that changes can happen in an instance. He noted that this will add a burden to parents who have to stay away from work, but this is something that will (hopefully) be addressed by expanded access to EI. Horgan noted that people who work in the gig economy, part time workers, and those depending on tips will be hit hard. He’s hoping that there are plans for this. He also hopes that EI will see people closer to full  wages instead of the current half-wage that EI is currently set at (55%).

“We will have to wait and see what they come up with,” said Horgan. “These are seismic changes on how we do business.” They are “hopeful and optimistic,” and they will do what they can to fill in any gaps.

One reporter asked about Ontario’s freeze on eviction notices that came about by people not being able to afford rent. This is something that the province is currently working on. Horgan noted that it’s not just individual citizens renting but also businesses.

Fleming noted that recreation centres that typically host camps are being closed.

Horgan noted that the borders are a federal matter. Supply lines are critically important. If people are coming to visit, it’s best to come in August not in April. We also need to be sure that we keep our lines of trade open. Shelves have to remain stocked up. Airport screening he will leave to the federal government.  He also noted that the Ferry from Seattle may well be bringing people home. Check assumptions. Bottom line, stay home.

He also noted that businesses, small and large, are impacted by the loss of cash-flow. He assures us that both the province and the federal government are looking at this problem. It is top of mind. He encouraged everyone to remember that this is temporary. Even though it may not feel like it, it will end.

If you can keep your doors open, do so; if you need to isolate, do so. When it is safe to do so, please keep on supporting BC businesses.

He noted that the impact is very real, adding “It will be the worse St. Patrick’s Day ever.”