West Vancouver municipal councillor discloses holiday travel to California in pandemic

·5 min read

A District of West Vancouver councillor has disclosed that he travelled outside of Canada to visit family over the December holidays, despite pandemic-era advice to stay home.

Coun. Peter Lambur is currently in quarantine after travelling with his wife to Big Sur, California, to visit their son and new granddaughter.

“Following the last council meeting of 2020 [Dec 16], I travelled with my wife to Big Sur, California to see my six-month-old granddaughter for the first time,” Lambur said in an email forwarded to North Shore News by Donna Powers, District of West Vancouver spokeswoman.

Lambur said his trip complied with all provincial protocols and Government of Canada rules, including COVID-19 testing prior to departure and isolation in the family home in California.

"Masks were worn and social distancing was maintained throughout the journey and including onboard an aircraft with very few passengers," he said.

"No crowds were encountered in either of our departure or arrival terminals."

Lambur travelled to Los Angeles County during a critical time, with the county doubling its number of coronavirus infections, from about 400,000 cases on Nov. 30 to more than 800,000 cases on Jan. 2, according to health officials.

“There are 7,697 people with COVID-19 currently hospitalized and 21 per cent of these people are in the ICU. When this surge began in early November, there was an average of 791 people hospitalized daily with COVID-19,” a Jan. 4. County of Los Angeles Public Health release states.

Lambur returned home on Dec. 31 and will be in quarantine until Jan.13.

“Currently we are in Day 6 of our 14-day quarantine period without any symptoms evident,” he said.

When asked about why he made the decision to travel when being advised not to, Lambur said he had “no further comments.”

Mayor Mary-Ann Booth said she was not aware of Lambur travelling until media began making enquiries.

“It’s obviously a personal decision, but I do believe as elected officials we are held to a higher standard and that we have to be very exemplary in our behaviour,” she said.

“I understand that the public will form their own opinions about this. I don’t police my council, but I do have expectations of appropriate behaviour.”

Booth said she hadn’t spoken to Lambur since he returned.

Booth and councillors Craig Cameron, Nora Gambioli, Bill Soprovich, Sharon Thompson, and Marcus Wong stayed local over the Christmas break.

Powers also disclosed that Booth went to her cabin in Whistler just before Christmas to “attend to some maintenance needs.”

The North Shore News canvassed all other councillors from the District of North Vancouver and City of North Vancouver and so far, among those who replied, none travelled out of B.C. during the holidays.

District of North Vancouver Coun. Lisa Muri said she travelled to Whistler on the afternoon of Dec. 26 and returned before noon on Dec. 28 to prepare a rental property for January.

"I did not leave the unit, except for a short walk, and did not visit or patronize any businesses while I was there. I brought all my own food," she said in a text.

She went on to say that her family did not celebrate together over the holidays, and she stayed with her own immediate members of her household.

District of North Vancouver Mayor Mike Little said he hadn’t left the province in over a year and that he wouldn’t be travelling “until we have seen a dramatic change in the situation.”

“There will be time for travel, but out of respect for the sacrifice of so many, we need to model low-risk behaviour from home,” he said.

City of North Vancouver Mayor Linda Buchanan said she and senior staff at city hall hadn’t travelled and had been following provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry’s orders diligently.

“I’m pleased that so many others in our community have done the same,” she said via email.

“News of high-ranking public officials travelling abroad is understandably frustrating, but do not let the actions of others distract you or deter you from doing your part to protect our community and health-care system.

“The call to stay home needs to be taken very seriously as reducing our in-person contacts is the best way to keep our loved ones, and all people, safe,” Buchanan said.

The news of Lambur's travel to California comes after several politicians from other provinces admitted to leaving the country during the December holidays.

All North Shore MLAs and MPs have confirmed they stayed in B.C., with many not having travelled since March last year.

“We must lead by example, not just words,” said Karin Kirkpatrick, West Vancouver-Capilano Liberal MLA, when it comes to abiding by coronavirus public health orders and travel advisories.

"Being an elected official is a privilege, and we are held to a higher standard of conduct,” said Kirkpatrick via email.

At a press conference today, Jan. 6, Health Minister Adrian Dix was asked by reporters: should there be any discipline for elected officials of any level for not following the provincial health guidance around international and non-essential travel?

“I think it's disappointing. And the public has reflected on that,” said Dix.

“The issue isn't about punishing people. The issue is communicating clearly, that non-essential travel should be avoided right now. And I would say much of the travel that we've seen described is clearly non-essential travel. And, so, that's obviously disappointing.”

The Province of British Columbia has formally extended the provincial state of emergency, allowing health officials to continue to use extraordinary powers under the Emergency Program Act to support the COVID-19 pandemic response.

The state of emergency is extended through the end of the day on Jan. 19.

Elisia Seeber, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, North Shore News