B.C. premier praises opposition MLAs for vaccine advocacy in face of anti-vaccine constituents


B.C. Premier John Horgan is praising two opposition MLAs for their leadership in support of vaccines.

In a news conference Thursday, Horgan complimented BC Liberal Party MLAs Mike Bernier of Peace River South and Dan Davies of Peace River North who’ve advocated for COVID-19 vaccinations in the face of anti-vaccine advocates.

“(They) have taken courageous and an appropriate stance on these issues in the interest of protecting their communities,” he said.

B.C.’s Northern Health region has the highest rate of COVID-19 infections per capita. On Wednesday, it added 43.3 new cases per 100,000 residents, while Interior Health added just 20.

Horgan noted that it’s “largely” been in opposition ridings where MLAs have had to come out in support of vaccinations, contrary to the wishes of many of their constituents.

“I don't mean this in a partisan way … Largely in opposition ridings, (MLAs) have all done extraordinary work against the wishes of some of their constituents and supporters and I commend them for that leadership,” Horgan said.

“Every single one of them is going out of their way to protect people and that’s as it should be.”

Among his advocacy, Bernier has taken to Facebook to encourage his constituents to get vaccinated, citing the high case rates and hospitalizations in his district. In a Sept. 22 post he wrote, “I have been very public trying to encourage people to get vaccinated so if you haven’t and If you want to get vaccinated there are still opportunities to do so.”

Horgan’s commendations came as he faced scrutiny for leaving all 60 of the province’s school districts to decide on their own whether to make vaccines mandatory for teachers.

Horgan defended himself Thursday, claiming it would be an administrative overreach to tell all 60 district school boards, which are themselves the employers of school teachers, to make vaccinations mandatory.

“The districts are the employers,” he said. “We are the funder, to be sure, but there is a dual relationship here between (school board) trustees and the government.”

Horgan said he feels confident that districts will vote in favour of mandatory vaccination for teachers, especially since the BC Teachers’ Federation and CUPE – which represents school staff – are in favour of the move.

“I'm confident that school districts will be agreeable to that, Dr. (Bonnie) Henry and her team stand ready to work with everybody to get to the place we want to get to increasing the number of vaccines (and) protecting children.”