BREAKERS – timely tidbits and follow-ups to previously published stories:
- Town Council meetings must comply with legal statutes
- Shop local campaign pushes back on Amazon
- Premier warns visiting Americans — is it time to issue decals for their vehicles?
Town Council meetings must comply with legal statutes
When the BC government declared a state of emergency for COVID-19, it used a ministerial order to exempt local governments from statutory requirements related to the conduct of meetings and public hearings and the passage of bylaws. That order (M139) also allowed local government meetings to be held without the public in attendance and allowed municipalities to adopt bylaws more quickly than usual.
That ministerial order has now been repealed.
According to an Ombudsperson investigation report released June 22, 2020, M139 was one of two ministerial orders made during the COVID-19 pandemic by BC’s Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General Mike Farnworth that “went beyond the authority assigned to him under the Emergency Program Act and thus are contrary to law.”
“In a provincial emergency the Solicitor General has additional extraordinary powers,” said Ombudsperson Jay Chalke. “The issue we investigated is whether those extra powers include the ability for the minister to suspend or temporarily amend BC statutes and we concluded the minister does not have that authority, even in an emergency.”
M139 was repealed and replaced with a new order, M192, after the Ombudsperson shared his draft report with government.
The new order supposedly includes safeguards against arbitrary or inconsistent decision-making that the previous order did not contain. “The new local government order is an improvement however it still purports to suspend or amend BC statutes, which is the primary problem we found with the original order,” said Chalke.
“I recognize speed was important in responding to the pandemic however, while the intent and even the content of these orders may be worthy, that is not enough. Every exercise of public authority in a democratic system must find its source in law,” said Chalke.
QB shop local campaign pushes back on Amazon
Qualicum Beach merchants have lit up their stores with banners asking residents and visitors alike to Shop Local.
The lack of customers in our retail sector is due of course to the shutdown ordered over three months ago by Dr. Bonnie Henry, BC’s provincial health officer. However our local businesses are also suffering from the knee-jerk response of many of us to turn to Amazon.
Our local postal outlets are reporting “package deliveries like it was Christmas.” However, that just might come back to haunt us. Many of us know of communities where local businesses were wiped out when big box stores like Walmart smothered the retail market, only to pull up stakes without a backward glance a few years later. The end result? Local residents had to drive further and further to do their shopping. Local workers were not only without their jobs at Walmart, there were no other businesses left standing where they could get jobs. Relying so heavily on Amazon creates the same risk for Qualicum Beach.
QBers have a choice. We can shop local — in person or online. We don’t all have to flock to Amazon like sheep for everything.
Premier warns visiting Americans — is it time to issue decals for their vehicles?
We’ve been getting comments and letters from readers of Second Opinion QB who are worried about seeing vehicles with American license plates appearing around town. Premier John Horgan is apparently getting the same message. He recently lashed out at Americans who are purportedly entering Canada on false pretenses.
It’s no small worry. Our neighbours to the south are dealing with the viral equivalent of last year’s epic Australian firestorm season. COVID-19’s numbers are climbing every day down south, with some of the worst places being our “neighbours” Washington state, California and Arizona. Over 120,000 dead and climbing fast. Daily, new cases in some states like Florida topping 10,000. Daily. Their hospitals are fast becoming overwhelmed. Not only can’t they handle COVID-19 cases, it is starting to reduce their ability to handle all other medical emergencies. The pandemic there is becoming pandemonium.
“Go straight home,” was Premier Horgan’s blunt message to Americans who claim to be entering Canada by vehicle to drive straight back to their homes in Alaska “… but then do something else,” as reported by CTV News. Horgan raised concerns of Americans abusing border exemptions, saying he has heard from MLAs across BC and other officials, as well as from his own riding on the west coast of Vancouver Island. “If you want to get to Alaska, we do not want to impede, but you should go directly,” said Horgan.
Qualicum Beach is a prime tourist destination, and we are not immune — not from the virus nor from Americans who ignore our rules and our safety. People here have reported seeing vehicles with plates from Washington state, Colorado and Texas. Texas(!) where citizens are now ordered to wear a mask at all times whenever they leave their homes. Many of these states opened up their societies too soon, and now they are being locked back down again.
British Columbians are rightly concerned by Americans who have not quarantined themselves for 14 days, as other foreign visitors are compelled to do (and indeed as Americans are compelled to do, except if they are “essential” service workers, traveling straight to their home in Alaska, or have been formally exempted by Canada Border Services for extenuating circumstances).
Dr. Bonnie Henry though cautioned people not to jump to conclusions, saying that a vehicle with American plates could belong to Canadians returning home. Sure, a few might be, but let’s be honest. There are always people who feel entitled to do as they please, regardless of their impact on others. If our border with the U.S., where the virus is raging out of control, is so porous in this time of global pandemic, we should not be the ones called out for raising alarms too hastily. Rather, it is incumbent upon us to raise an alarm, and for governments and authorities to step up to the plate.
There is a relatively simple fix for this, one that would allay our concerns about the health of American visitors; a fix that would also help reduce the risk of the virulent viral surge down south from seeping northward.
Every vehicle that comes across the border could be issued a “decal” by Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) stating their date of entry, whether they are ordered to quarantine in place, where and for how long, or whether they were cleared to enter BC under specific exemptions. Or, whether they were Canadians who just happened to own a vehicle with American plates. Still, if these Canadians had just returned to BC, they would be required to self-isolate for 14 days, and some have reportedly not.
The vehicle decal would contain the names of people that the decal pertains to, i.e. all those who crossed the border in that vehicle. The decal would be visible at all times, so that members of the public could check it if they were concerned about whether these foreign visitors were in compliance with BC rules. Once people had completed their required quarantine period, their decal would have to be marked by CBSA or by provincial authorities who monitor COVID quarantine compliance.