Some B.C. politicians calling for stricter enforcement of COVID-19 health measures

·3 min read

A number of elected municipal and provincial officials in British Columbia say harsher penalties are needed for COVID-19 rule breakers, while the minister responsible for public safety says what's in place right now is working.

According to Mike Farnworth, 750 violation tickets and 85 tickets for violating the federal quarantine act have been issued so far. These include almost 80 people who were fined on the weekend, and one man who was arrested, after police shut down a makeshift nightclub at a penthouse in downtown Vancouver.

And it is not only night time revellers who are looking for loopholes.

As the majority of British Columbians hunker down at home, there are others not heeding Dr. Bonnie Henry's recommendations to avoid non-essential travel and flocking to ski hills outside their communities where the virus is proven to have spread. Social media has become an echo chamber of people angry at those not following the rules and while Farnworth told CBC's The Early Edition Monday morning he thinks the measures in place have been working, other elected officials say more should be done.

"It's going to require stronger orders and stronger enforcement," said Adam Olsen, the Green Party MLA for Saanich North and the Islands.

Province of British Columbia/Flickr
Province of British Columbia/Flickr

Olsen, also speaking Monday on The Early Edition said pandemic fatigue is making people incredibly frustrated at this stage of the game and "that it is time to look at stricter measures."

He said the threat of new COVID-19 variants makes it that much more important to act now.

Farnworth did not indicate stronger orders were under consideration and said the measures in place now "have been working."

"Most people are doing the right thing and we've seen that in comparison to other jurisdictions across the country," said the minister. "There's always going to be those who try and get round the rules."

It is for that exact reason that City of Vancouver Coun. Sarah Kirby-Yung told CBC Monday she would like to see stronger fines put in place.

Police issued $17,000 in fines Sunday related to the penthouse party. Each partygoer was fined $230 for attending a non-compliant event. The party host was arrested under the Public Health Act and taken to jail, according to police.

"If people have enough cash to draw upon what's presumably not a cheap night out then a ticket, the $230 dollars, is not going to deter them," said Kirby-Yung.

Jon Hernandez/CBC News
Jon Hernandez/CBC News

Kirby-Yung also raised the critical need to control mutated variations of the virus now known to be in B.C.

"We need to send a message to people when we've got additional variants coming out," she said. "Calling people out or asking them not to do this is not making it happen."

Farnworth said their bylaw officers and police will continue to operate as they have been and that in some cases, such as the party host, people could also be held accountable for illegally selling alcohol and by their strata council.

"What we have to do is continue to do what we are doing and at the same time ensure that those who don't want to follow the rules are ticketed, fined or publicly shamed," said Farnworth.

As of Friday, there were 4,557 active cases of COVID-19 in the province and 7,000 people were under monitoring after being in close contact with someone who has COVID-19.