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COVID-19: K-12 classes in B.C. suspended indefinitely

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B.C. Premier John Horgan. (via Darren Stone)

B.C. Premier John Horgan announced Tuesday that all in-class learning at K-12 schools in the province is suspended immediately and indefinitely. 

He also shared that the government is looking to amend B.C.'s employment standards act to enable greater worker support as the spread of COVID-19 shutters businesses and facilities across the country.

“This is a crisis situation. There is no making that sound any better," he said. “I want to assure people that today we are talking about the plan and the path forward." 

He added that more details about B.C.'s plans will follow the federal government's economic plan, which is expected to be announced Wednesday.

Finance Minister Carole James said the government is hoping Canada extends employment insurance (EI) benefits to those who would not at present be able to access EI. Horgan called it a "go-big-or-go-home environment."

“They need to make sure they’re not short-changing people in this crisis,” he said.

James outlined three overall economic priorities: services and support to protect the health and safety of British Columbians, working with the federal government on "immediately relief for people and businesses" and building a plan for the province's economic recovery, which she said would be built in collaboration with the broader business community.

Horgan said a number of options are being considered, and mentioned the possibility of a rent bank. He and James stressed that more information will be made available in the coming days.

"We also want to make sure that we're looking at the longer term plan," said James. "But we're not there yet."

"Our economy in B.C. will be impacted," she said, calling the government's response a marathon, and not a sprint. She said it's "just too early" to determine the fiscal impact on the province's budget, but said a deficit is likely.