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Horgan says he regrets child-care frustrations around last-minute holiday

Premier says province has collective agreements that say if the federal government mandates a holiday, that holiday is also in effect in B.C.
Premier John Horgan signs the book of condolence for Queen Elizabeth II at the B.C. legislature Sept. 12. ADRIAN LAM, TIMES COLONIST

Premier John Horgan says he regrets the frustration and ­confusion Monday’s federal holiday for Queen Elizabeth II’s funeral has caused some British Columbians.

“It really does, quite frankly, diminish from what should have been an opportunity for all of us to spend a few moments ­reflecting on the ­extraordinary life of Queen Elizabeth and, rather, we have people ­frustrated because they have domestic issues they have to deal with,” Horgan said Friday, the final day of the week-long Union of B.C. Municipalities ­convention in Whistler.

On Tuesday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that Sept. 19 will be a federal holiday to mourn the passing of Queen Elizabeth II, who died Sept. 8.

The federal government is giving all federal employees the day off, but left it up to ­provinces and territories to decide if they wanted to follow suit.

While Ontario and Alberta and the Northwest Territories opted not to have a statutory holiday, B.C. will recognize the day as a holiday for ­provincial ­public-sector employees, with schools, post-secondary ­institutions and most Crown ­corporations closing up shop.

Many working in the ­private sector will still have to work, and the unexpected last-­minute ­holiday has put pressure on ­parents already facing a strained child-care system, Lisa Connell, chair of Tillicum Elementary’s Parent Advisory Council, told the Times Colonist on Wednesday.

While some working parents have negotiated ways to work from home during the pandemic, others who must be physically at work say it’s unrealistic to find child care with less than a week’s notice.

Horgan said the province is hearing from those unhappy about the holiday in B.C., but has collective agreements that ­­say if the federal government ­mandates a holiday, that holiday is also in effect in B.C.

“So we were put into a bit of a dilemma,” said Horgan.

“I understand the challenges for parents. I very much hope that we can get through Monday as best as we all can.”

A provincial commemorative service for Queen Elizabeth II will begin at 9:30 a.m. at the B.C. legislature, with a procession departing at 10:15 a.m. for Christ Church Cathedral, where there will be a multi-faith service beginning at 11 a.m.

Horgan, Lt.-Gov. Janet Austin and a host of other dignitaries are expected to attend.

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