By Lyonel Doherty
Premier John Horgan is giving kudos to parents who have been “holding up the sky” during the past month.
During today’s teleconference in Victoria, Horgan reported the sense of relief on many parents’ faces as their children went back to school part time on Monday.
He admitted there were initial concerns about student health but going to class was a “very positive experience for many.”
The premier acknowledged that parents have anxiety about September when schools will resume full-time operation.
Another issue Horgan touched on was the 75-cent increase in minimum wage, which is now $14.60 per hour, just behind Alberta that pays $15 per hour.
“I believe the least paid workers in B.C. should not pay the brunt of COVID-19,” he stated.
Horgan said that some businesses are concerned about the increase, but he sided with the people who “desperately” need a raise in pay during the pandemic.
The issue of violence and ensuing protests also found a way into the teleconference when Horgan said he was horrified about what happened to George Floyd, the black man who was killed by police in the U.S. on May 25.
The premier said the government wants to ensure that everyone is treated equally but admitted that racism also exists in B.C.
Horgan encouraged people who protest against violence to make sure they practise social distancing and wear a mask if they are chanting.
During question period, Horgan commented on the cruise ship season, saying the market will decide what the future holds for this industry.
“I don’t know how many people are lining up to get on cruise ships (after the outbreaks).”
The premier was asked what he thought about taking a regional approach to opening up tourism in areas with low COVID-19 case numbers.
But he said the virus is everywhere in B.C.
Horgan noted the province has opened up more of its campsites, and he believes domestic tourism will break records this year.
“A regional strategy just doesn’t work for tourism. If people want to book (travel) arrangements, they can do that now, but there’s no guarantee they will be able to get there.”
Horgan said it wasn’t long ago that leaders in tourism-dependent communities were telling people to stay home.
“We can’t just flick a switch and get back to normal.”
He noted the government will look at easing more restrictions in mid-June.
Horgan called on employers to “do the right thing” by keeping their workforce intact.
He said people are excited about going back to restaurants and having someone else do the cooking and wash the dishes, adding that his wife certainly feels that way.
The premier was asked how parents and children can stay safe when they visit playgrounds again. He encouraged all parents to continue being mindful of physical distancing, and to take along sanitary wipes to clean things off before their kids use any apparatus.
Horgan also commented on The Fraser Institute’s suggestion of a four-day work week. He was intrigued by this, noting in 10 years he would probably be ready for a one-day work week.