Prince Rupert Mayor reacts to provincial decision to suspend local states of emergency

Lee Brain_Emerg Dec_Mar23_2020_1
Prince Rupert Mayor Lee Brain says his city will fully comply with provincial directives, even though he was not happy with the BC government's decision to suspend all local "state of emergency" declarations -- including Prince Rupert's.

Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth and Premier John Horgan announced Thursday what they called "unprecedented steps'' to protect supply chains for goods and services, and stop the resale of food and medical supplies.

That included the suspension of local states of emergency
 
In a lengthy post on Facebook, Brain said his council's emergency declaration, issued Monday night, was based on the recommendations of the local medical community and were designed to keep local residents safe during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Brain said his city,  the Coast Tsimshian, Central Coast and Haida Gwaii communities believe that, while the orders of provincial health officer Doctor Bonnie Henry are very important and must be followed, they were not enough to protect small isolated northern communities.
 
He says unfortunately, Thursday's orders mean his community must wait for someone in Victoria to figure out that all people coming off of flights into Prince Rupert, Terrace or Prince  George --- or driving in from any location whatsoever -- should be forced to self-isolate for 14 days unless they are essential services and are not showing symptoms.
  
He said Prince Rupert will continue to make "Recommended" local orders anyway, based on advice from the local medical community, even though the city does not have the power to enforce them.

Brain also said any community issues moving forward regarding housing, childcare, homelessness, etc are to be sent to North Coast MLA Jennifer Rice's office, saying that she and her team are now in control.

Below is Brain's full statement issued on Facebook:  


== from LEE BRAIN == FACEBOOK ==
 

πŸ‘‰ Regarding the suspension of local states of emergency: my MOST important message to you all yet.

First, I want to start by saying that everything we have been doing in Prince Rupert, Haida Gwaii, Central Coast and Coast Tsimshian territories (along with many other locations in BC) has been to only enhance the orders of Dr. Bonnie Henry. We believe she is doing an amazing job handling the big picture issues and we have nothing but the upmost respect for her and her team during this difficult time.

Trying to create solutions for 160+ communities around this Province is no easy task, let me tell you.

In their role, it is unfortunately difficult to understand the many localized and specific issues that their team just does not have the time to see or address. These issues have been brought forward to us by our physicians and we believed as communities with limited resources that we needed to act now before it was too late.

I am, and have always been a team player with the Province. There are many times when I have been very upset with them during my almost 6 years as Mayor, but in the interest of unity for our Province and community, I have stayed on message and have gone with the flow.

Unfortunately today, the Province announced that effective immediately, ALL local states of emergency are now suspended.

πŸ‘‰ This means that all localized orders that we have put in place based on the recommendations of our local physicians are no longer enforceable by the law and are suspended.

The Province says that this is to ensure an 'all government' response to COVID-19. In so many ways I agree with that. However, we cannot be effective if we are stripped of the power to enforce local provisions that make sense for the situational issues on the ground.

They unfortunately believe that these measures have been causing panic, are 'patchwork', and are not inspiring confidence.

Folks, I will let YOU be the judge if that is a true reflection of how you have been feeling about our regional leadership.

So now their message is clear: we must wait for the Province to tell us what to do. We are to give them a list of our needs, respond to requests for information and supplies, and make all our facilities available to them. They also suggested that our 1 bylaw officer should go enforce their provincial orders...

What scares me the MOST now is we must wait for someone in Victoria to figure out that all people coming off of flights into Prince Rupert / Terrace / PG, or driving in from any location whatsoever should be forced to self-isolate for 14 days unless they are essential services and are not showing symptoms.

To us and our physicians, that just makes sense. To them, it was us going against the grain.

At this point, I am putting it all on the line for our community and region - and I am doing what I believe is right based on sound medical advice on the ground.

πŸ‘‰ Only history will judge who made the right decisions here or not.

You all read the letters from our physicians who have been sounding the alarm regarding what is really going on and why we needed to react differently up in the north.

The issues in the lower mainland vs rural communities are complex and nuanced. It takes time to figure out what the right approach is and right now, we just don't have the time to have the Province figure it out for us.

Over the past week and a half our communities have had major pressure from those above us to not declare a local state of emergency. In fact, we were told directly that if we declared a local state of emergency, they would rescind our orders.

πŸ‘‰ However, based on the advice of our physicians and with the health and safety of our residents in mind, as regions (North Coast and Central Coast), we decided to do it anyway.

Let me be clear: all the messages and orders from Dr. Bonnie Henry are VERY important and everyone MUST follow them as they are the LAW - however, the City, the Coast Tsimshian, Central Coast and Haida Gwaii communities knew deep down that was NOT going to be enough up here and decided we all needed to be working together on specific localized orders that make sense for our region.

After the emergency was declared, we immediately made specific localized orders to ensure that message got out to the residents when we had the power to do it before it was too late.

In the north our biggest threat are people traveling back home from the lower mainland (and elsewhere). When they get back, they are going into the grocery stores, back to work, etc.

πŸ‘‰ We made an order to end that as a region, period.

Now with a swoop of the hand, that is no longer enforceable.

It's why I specifically said this in my message yesterday:

"However, just imagine Prince Rupert residents just voluntarily bought into this order without it needing to be one."

πŸ‘‰ I said that to prime you for this outcome.

I have been working with the industries and the unions here to ensure the supply chain will continue but that we could also have more strict local measures in place to ensure the safety of our workforce, our families and healthcare professionals. We won't stop on that.

πŸ‘‰ At this juncture, your MLA Jennifer Rice and her colleagues at the Province believe they know best how to protect you and your families up here.

Only time will tell who did what was right and acted fast enough.

Luckily for us, we weren't afraid and made some big moves when we had the chance. We bought our doctors and nurses some valuable time. We got our community more solid as a team. We are more united as a region than ever before because of our actions (I don't see panic, I don't see confusion - just unity and pride).

πŸ‘‰ So what happens now.

I want everyone to know that our PRIMARY goal is to FULLY comply with the Province and we will NOT stray from what Dr. Bonnie Henry is saying (which has always been our primary message). We will continue to promote and enforce their orders.

At the end of the day, we do not have the time for division as we are all in this together and must act collectively on a united front. I have no hard feelings at the Province here but I WILL ensure my views are known for the history books.

I sincerely hope the Province listens to us more clearly moving forward and in my heart of hearts want to believe they will enact some of the measures we have presented.

πŸ‘‰ So here's what we are going to do: on top of promoting all provincial orders, we are going to make 'recommended' local orders anyway.

Yes, we have no way to enforce them, and we have no way to ask you to do anything legally speaking.

πŸ‘‰ But, I believe the people are with us. I believe you understand why we are doing what we are doing. We need your support now more than ever.

We are taking our direction from our physicians on the ground and I believe we just need to do what we need to do. Period.

πŸ‘‰ The only way it happens is all organizations, unions, industry, businesses and residents believe that we should enact localized provisions together and make it the law of the land ANYWAY.

Unfortunately any community issues moving forward regarding housing, childcare, homelessness, etc are to be sent to Jennifer Rice's office as her and her team are now in control. You can forward your concerns to Jennifer Rice by calling 250-624-7734 or e-mailing jennifer.rice.mla@leg.bc.ca.

πŸ‘‰ Despite all this, we will continue to do the work to help keep you and your family safe. With the help and guidance of our local medical professionals we will do whats best to protect our community and our region as a whole. We're all in this together.

With all the love in my heart,

Mayor Lee Brain
City of Prince Rupert

PS - We have some VERY positive news coming out soon regarding an initiative we have with our doctors and partners in the community that will be a game changer in our response to COVID-19.