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Coronavirus: B.C. premier pleased feds are adopting national sick-pay plan

B.C. premier on details of the $1.1B federal sick pay program
Premier John Horgan answers a reporter's question about the nationally funded and nationally coordinated sick pay program.

B.C. Premier John Horgan says he’s pleased the federal government will implement a national sick-pay program for people who don’t currently qualify as the COVID-19 pandemic¬†continues.

Horgan has been advocating for a sick-pay program for casual and part-time workers since April, and spearheaded the federal push.

“We’ve been able to get that one across the line. That’s $1.1 billion to make sure that people don’t go to work sick,” he said.

“I’ll leave it to the federal government to give the details of how they’re going to distribute the resources.”

The funding is part of a $19 billion Ottawa announcement to help provinces deal with COVID-19. British Columbia will receive about $2 billion of the overall program.

Eligible British Columbians will apply through a yet-to-be-created national program.

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Coronavirus: Provinces to receive $19B from Ottawa to help restart their economies
Coronavirus: Provinces to receive $19B from Ottawa to help restart their economies

The federal support also includes 50/50 cost-sharing for public transit and supports for municipalities.

The requirement is the province must contribute $1 for every $1 Ottawa spends to support transit. TransLink and BC Transit have been desperate for help because of a major drop in ridership during the height of the pandemic.

“I’m very pleased that the federal chairman understands and recognizes that the best way for them to have a positive impact on people’s lives is to partner with other orders of government, whether it be the provincial government or municipalities across British Columbia,” Horgan said.

Read more: B.C. eviction ban to end Sept. 1, tenants have until July 2021 to pay unpaid rent

The federal funding does not include support for housing. The province had announced on Wednesday a lifting of the moratorium on evictions due to unpaid rent during the pandemic.

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Horgan also expressed frustration during a news conference on Thursday that the health crisis has eclipsed the staggering growth in new overdose deaths in B.C.

B.C. premier on record opioid deaths and federal government’s ‘safe restart plan’
B.C. premier on record opioid deaths and federal government’s ‘safe restart plan’

 

The BC Coroners Service announced Thursday that a record 175 people in B.C. died of illicit drug overdoses in June. Compare that to the 189 people in total who have died because of COVID-19 in the province.

Horgan was again asked why the province is responding more aggressively to the pandemic than to the overdose crisis.

Read more: B.C. overdose deaths hit record high for second consecutive month

“I just think that these are two separate things. We have an insidious virus that affects anyone at any time. And we have an opioid crisis that involves people using drugs. Those are choices initially and then they become dependencies,” Horgan said.

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“Wash your hands. Physical distancing. Wear a mask if you can’t do that. Those are conscious decisions people can make to protect themselves. When you’re addicted to opioids, you’re not making conscious decisions other than getting your next opioid.”