Leaders in the Cariboo are feeling the pressure of ongoing and evolving COVID-19 restrictions, which has many members of the public challenging government.
Cariboo Chilcotin Liberal MLA Lorne Doerkson did not attend a large, Fight 4 Freedom rally in Williams Lake Wednesday (Aug. 25), despite posters noting he would be available for questions. Doerkson said he had nothing to do with the posters or organizers.
“I will not defy public health orders to attend any kind of meeting or public gathering,” Doerkson told the Tribune Thursday. “However, the public health order does allow me to meet with much smaller groups of people, which in this case I have met with a number of the participants of the march.”
Doerkson said generally speaking, he is hearing from many residents who are worried about the loss of freedom from the recently announced government intention to create temporary vaccine passports.
“We have received dozens and dozens of letters against vaccine passports and the loss of any rights,” Doerkson said. “Their points have been made to me and I’ve certainly agreed to relay those concerns to Minister Dix and Dr. Bonnie Henry.”
The MLA said he believes people who can be vaccinated should make the choice to do so. However, he empathizes the need to respect those who are unable to take the vaccine. Doerkson further clarified it is the NDP government who authorized vaccine passports.
“I think there are many questions about these new orders that need to be asked and they are going to be asked over the next few weeks. I am very concerned that small businesses are going to be forced into a position to ask these very sensitive and personal questions … I am extremely worried about the outcome of some of those conversations.”
Doerkson said there is a lot of unrest out in the public right now and believes the coming weeks could be very challenging.
The day before the rally, Mayor Walt Cobb told the Tribune he does not personally agree with the vaccine passports, but said he does not know how else businesses can be protected.
“If you are going to have businesses that are having trouble because people are coming in that are not wearing masks, or mixing with other people when they shouldn’t be, it takes the onus off the store owners (by having the passports).”
At the beginning of a committee of the whole meeting on Tuesday evening, Cobb said masks must be worn by anyone sitting in the chamber gallery at all times because of public health orders.
He also asked the public, if they are feeling frustrated with the rules, not to take it out on store clerks or waiters.
“There’s also word about boycotting restaurants and businesses. That isn’t going to do your neighbours any good. They are just following the rules,” he said. “If you feel the need, take your frustrations out on the provincial government, don’t take it out on your local businesses and your local staff.”