B.C. legislature to require vaccinations, politicians decide unanimously

B.C. legislature to require vaccinations, politicians decide unanimously

The all-party legislative assembly management committee approved the requirement unanimously and without debate

Article content

VICTORIA — Starting Monday, MLAs, staff and members of the public will have to produce proof of vaccination to enter the B.C. legislature buildings in Victoria.

Advertisement

Article content

The all-party legislative assembly management committee approved the requirement unanimously and without debate, showing that on this issue at least, B.C.’s New Democrats, Liberals and Greens are of the same mind.

The actual motion, passed in the space of two minutes last Friday, mandates that “a proof of COVID-19 vaccination program be established for MLAs, caucus and administration staff working in the legislative precinct effective Sept. 13 and concluding Jan. 31, 2022, subject to a re-evaluation by the committee, and that recognizing the fluid nature of the matter, appropriate program arrangements will be finalized by the assembly administration under the oversight of the Speaker.”

The proof of vaccination requirement will apply to an estimated 500 people who work in the buildings, including security, administrative, cleaning, clerical, dining room and library staff, plus the political staff in the caucus offices of the three parties.

Advertisement

Article content

If members of the legislative press gallery wish to attend the buildings in person, they will be required to provide proof of vaccination in confidence through an online portal administered through the office of the clerk.

Members of the public will also be required to produce proof of vaccination before visiting the buildings for tours, or to use the legislative library or parliamentary dining room.

All those groups remain subject to an earlier masking requirement, which applies on stairs, in corridors and other public spaces in the buildings.

Exemptions will be considered for individuals who cannot get vaccinated for legitimate medical reasons.

However on exemptions, I expect the assembly will be guided by the hard-line stand of the provincial health officer, Dr. Bonnie Henry.

Advertisement

Article content

“There are very few medical exemptions for these vaccines,” she told broadcaster Mike Smyth during an interview on CKNW this week. “They’re very simple vaccines that don’t have a lot in them. And (for) people who say that I can’t take the vaccine because I’m immune compromised — those are actually the conditions that we recommend people have this vaccine because they’re more at risk for having severe illness from the virus.”

The assembly’s adoption of the vaccination requirement probably heralds a reworking of plans for the fall session of the legislature, starting Oct. 4.

When the house adjourned in June, it did so in anticipation that the province would be moving to step 4 of the pandemic restart on Sept. 7.

It was expected to clear the way for a normal fall session as opposed to the ones in the summer of 2020 and the spring of 2021 where some MLAs attended the chamber in person while most participated online.

Advertisement

Article content

Instead, another hybrid session is likely, with several dozen MLAs attending in person while wearing masks and respecting physical distancing. Others will participate by Zoom hook-up from their homes or offices.

The proof of vaccination requirement won’t mean any practical change for politicians in the buildings in person. The members — all 87 of them — have already reported to their political parties as fully vaccinated.

It does mean a change for staff — administrative, political and otherwise. Up to now they’ve been encouraged but not ordered to get vaccinated, as with the rest of the public service.

The vaccination requirement will also apply to public servants who work outside the legislature, but who have to come to the legislature to, say, meet with a cabinet minister or attend a committee meeting.

Advertisement

Article content

But, as of Thursday, there was still no general requirement for public servants to get vaccinated.

The government website cited an Aug. 24 directive from Lori Wanamaker, head of the public service and deputy minister to Premier John Horgan, in the form of a question and answer.

Q: Will vaccinations be mandatory for the B.C. public service or for certain positions in the B.C. public service?

A: No. As mentioned in Lori Wanamaker’s Aug. 24 executive message, required proof of vaccination does not apply in B.C. public service workplaces at this time.

Due to the essential nature of services provided by the B.C. Public Service, proof of vaccination will not apply to clients or the public attending our workplaces. As workforce leaders plan the staffing in office locations, vaccination status should not be requested from employees as this is private medical information.”

Advertisement

Article content

The posting goes on to advise that public service workplaces are subject to a temporary mask order announced by Henry on Aug. 24.

“Masks are required in indoor public settings and in office areas where services to the public are provided. Employees can also choose to wear a mask in any workplace.”

Wanamaker did back off on the timing of a requirement that public servants would have to obtain special permission — under a so-called telework agreement — if they wished to continue working from home through the fall.

The initial deadline for return to government offices was Sept. 7. Now “the schedules set out in those agreements won’t apply until Oct. 12, after the Thanksgiving weekend.”

Such was the plan as of Aug. 24. But if the fourth wave of the pandemic continues on the current discouraging track, I wouldn’t be surprised if there were a toughening of the vaccination requirements for public servants and a loosening of the rules for working at home.

vpalmer@postmedia.com

Advertisement

Comments

Postmedia is committed to maintaining a lively but civil forum for discussion and encourage all readers to share their views on our articles. Comments may take up to an hour for moderation before appearing on the site. We ask you to keep your comments relevant and respectful. We have enabled email notifications—you will now receive an email if you receive a reply to your comment, there is an update to a comment thread you follow or if a user you follow comments. Visit our Community Guidelines for more information and details on how to adjust your email settings.


Source link

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *