City of Powell River councillors have directed staff to write provincial officials about lifting COVID-19 mandates to address labour shortages in critical areas such as health care and the public service.
Robin Murray, speaking at the July 5 committee of the whole meeting, said he was appearing because at a previous meeting, councillor Rob Southcott had spoken about the ambulance service here lessening its service capacity. He said there is also fewer staff at the hospital and long-term care, and businesses are struggling for workers.
“Part of the reason there are shortages of workers is because the baby boomers are getting older and they are retiring; now, we are having a labour shortage,” said Murray. “Along comes COVID-19 and the provincial government decided to instill a mandate last fall, preventing workers who don’t want to get the vaccine, or not wanting to disclose their health status, resulting in many of these people losing their jobs. There are too many shortages and it’s affecting people in our town.”
He said in other jurisdictions, mandates are being dropped and workers are being brought back to work to look after people.
“The mandates may have made sense last fall, back when delta (COVID-19 variant) was going through,” said Murray. “In the wintertime, we had omicron come through and everyone got sick, whether you were vaccinated or not. The mandates were starting to be lifted elsewhere. It’s time for BC to do the same.
“We all need to say something and tell the government to drop the mandates, and please help. I would like to ask council to write to the province and ask them to drop the mandates, and let employees and contractors come back to work. The lives of our people in Powell River are being affected and we need to look after them.”
Murray asked councillors to write the premier, minister of health and provincial health officer, requesting reinstatement.
Councillor Rob Southcott said he would wholeheartedly support sending a letter to the province.
“We’ve had enough divisiveness in our society and our community,” said Southcott. “It’s erosive and we can’t solve problems if we are divided. I would like to move that this goes to staff to have a letter sent to the province, so our province does what other jurisdictions are doing.”
Councillor Cindy Elliott said there were a couple of reasons for the government-imposed mandates, because it was trying to encourage the highest number of people possible to get vaccinated.
“Our numbers are pretty high in this province and they are about as high as they are going to get,” added Elliott. “The second reason was to keep health care areas as risk-free as possible with respect to COVID-19. I think we’ve reached the threshold there as well.
“At this point, the labour shortage is more dangerous than the risk to COVID-19 in our health care settings, so we need to address that labour shortage in a whole bunch of different ways. One of them would be to not require people to have vaccines to work if they were working there before.”
Staff was directed to draft a letter to the provincial government regarding lifting of mandates for health-care workers, long-term care workers and members of the public service.