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Give B.C. teachers a mandate when they ask for it

Victoria squandered a perfect opportunity to show leadership when it delegated vax mandate to school boards
File photo.

The BC government failed students and teachers when the BC Teachers’ Federation (BCTF) asked for a vaccine mandate last week. Instead, Premier John Horgan told reporters Thursday, Oct. 7, it should be up to school board trustees to decide the issue.

In an open letter to teachers, BCTF president Teri Mooring made it plain that this would be “the wrong approach.” Unless, the government didn’t want a clear, unified mandate, that is.

Mooring wrote: “Any vaccine mandate would need to be provincially implemented and done equitably. We can’t have unequal treatment of workers in the public education system.” She made a good point, given that the BCTF represents around 47,000 members across 60 school districts.

Provincial Health Officer (PHO) Dr. Bonnie Henry hasn’t issued a public health order to prop up a school vaccine mandate, Horgan told reporters Thursday afternoon. A vaccine mandate would come as a last resort, he said, suggesting that would be a drastic measure now that there are vaccine mandates for healthcare workers, government employees and Canadian Mounties.

The point is that a government shows itself to be weak when it lobs a mish-mash policy at a pandemic.

Simple epidemiology tells us that health orders have to be consistent and nearly universal if they’re to have their desired effect, which is why PHO Henry didn’t leave it to individual health authorities to decide whether or not healthcare workers would need their jabs. By the same token, the federal government didn’t leave it up to individual RCMP detachments to decide whether or not Mounties would need theirs.

It would seem to be politically expedient for a provincial government to delegate any mandate onto a board of trustees, whether it runs a school board or a credit union. But it invites a confusing mess of inconsistent policies between neighbouring regions.

COVID-19 doesn’t work that way, and neither should our government.

Grand Forks Gazette