BC Premier John Horgan says he is thankful for the federal government’s announcement of a fully funded national sick leave program.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced earlier Thursday the federal government will contribute $19 billion under the “Safe Restart Agreement” amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
The funding includes a national paid sick leave program.
Horgan said provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry emphasized early in the pandemic that a successful fight against infections would depend on people staying home from work when they have symptoms.
“I’m particularly proud of our ability here in British Columbia to push the idea of a paid sick leave program, nationally funded and nationally co-ordinated,” Horgan said, adding Mantioba Premier Brian Pallister and Yukon Premier Sandy Silver supported the idea.
“That’s 1.1 billion dollars to make sure that people don’t go to work sick.”
Horgan says British Columbia will receive about $2.2 billion in transfers as part of the Safe Restart Agreement that will help cover things like child care and personal protective equipment.
There is also money to bail out municipal governments that saw soaring expenses and plunging revenues during the pandemic.
According to Horgan, the federal government will have to announce how the sick leave program is implemented.
Horgan also said there is support from the federal government as “50/50” partners for transit support for BC Transit and Translink.
“This is a diverse group of people,” Horgan said of the governments of the 10 provinces, three territories and Ottawa coming together over the last few months to create the Safe Restart Agreement.
“We all came to the table with a basket full of problems and we all decided we would work collectively on those problems,” he added.
He said the governments were successful in making an agreement to meet the needs of the greatest number of people.
Under the agreement, Horgan said the province will match every dollar the federal government spends on transit and he estimates B.C. will need about $600 million to get decimated transit budgets back on track for this year alone.
Horgan also addressed Thursday’s overdose numbers. According to the BC Coroners Service, 175 fatalities in June surpassed the previous high of 171 deaths in May.
Horgan said the overdose crisis has been a priority for the government since they were sworn in three years ago.
Horgan has previously offered his support for the decriminalization of personal possession of illicit drugs.
Earlier this week, a new survey from Insights West highlighted that Horgan’s approval rating had skyrocketed due to his NDP’s COVID-19 response.
The poll showed that Horgan now sits at a 68 per cent approval rating – the highest of any BC political leader since the research organization began tracking data eight years ago.
With files from The Canadian Press