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Holiday celebrations in B.C. must be kept to 'absolute minimum': Premier Horgan

"The challenges ahead are significant."
Premier John Horgan - Nov. 18, 2020
B.C. Premier John Horgan speaks to the media. Photo: Province of British Columbia

British Columbians will need to keep holiday gatherings and celebrations to an "absolute minimum," Premier John Horgan told reporters on Wednesday.

"The challenges ahead are significant. We know that. We've known that for many, many months," he said. "If we continue to focus on protecting each other, we'll come through this stronger than ever before."

Horgan also said he has spoken with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau about developing a national message around encouraging Canadians to stay within their province or territory.

'If you don't need to travel, you shouldn't be travelling'

Regarding ferry travel within the province, where regional travel restrictions remain in effect, Horgan said both he and Trudeau agreed that telling people to not get on a ferry might be the best course of action in the interim. His remarks follow a Transport Canada decision that requires BC Ferries travellers to leave their vehicles on enclosed decks.

"If you don't need to travel, you shouldn't be travelling," Horgan said, who had urged the federal government to reverse the decision. "The federal government is absolutely aware of my views on this.... It's their responsibility."

"I've made my case and I'm hopeful it will win the day," he added. "This is a critical, dangerous time for British Columbia with respect to COVID-19. It's absolutely essential that we reduce our interactions with people who are not in our bubble or in our cohort or in our family or in our household unit. And I don't know how more clear we can be on that." 

Legislature back in session next week

Next week, B.C. will recall its legislature with a small throne speech that will highlight some of the province's short term plans. The provincial government will be focused on passing its supply bill, which includes the BC NDP's campaign commitment to issue a one-time recovery benefit of $500 for individuals and $1,000 for families.

Regarding the province's recovery grant for small and medium-sized businesses, Horgan said he's confident that the "dollars are rolling out," despite early issues around eligibility.

"Does every business fit? No, no they don't. So do we amend the criteria to make sure more businesses fit? Yes we do," he said.

Regarding the issue of paid sick days in B.C., Horgan said the province, in agreement with business-sector advisors, has left that policy issue for the federal government, which has committed to explore a federal paid sick leave policy that could be addressed before the end of the year. 

"The immediate concern was not to put more burdens on businesses that were already struggling," Horgan said of B.C.'s decision not to pursue a provincial policy at this time.

"If we need to take steps, here's the good news – the legislature will be sitting next week and we can take those steps."

Horgan said he doesn't anticipate this next legislative session to run for more than a week or two. He also said it's too early to comment on what travel and gathering restrictions in B.C. might look like come Christmas.