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Interim BC Liberal Leader calling for more transparency amid third COVID-19 wave

BC Green Party also calling on John Horgan, Dr. Bonnie Henry to enforce tougher restrictions
Prince George-Valemount MLA Shirley Bond is currently serving a sixth term and is the interim leader of the BC Liberals. | Jess Fedigan, PrinceGeorgeMatters

B.C. political parties are calling on Premier John Horgan, the BC NDP and Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry to enforce stronger COVID-19 measures as the province struggles with a harsh third wave. 

The province has been hovering at 1,000 cases per day for almost two weeks, with government and health officials standing pat, insisting the restrictions in place are enough to bend the curve back down despite facing criticism from epidemiologists, teachers, doctors and the public. 

Shirley Bond, Interim Leader for the BC Liberals and MLA for Prince George-Valemount, sent a letter to Horgan yesterday (April 7) saying the government needs to be more transparent. 

"In order to provide British Columbians with greater confidence and reassurance, especially while variants of concern are on the rise, we are calling on you and your government to immediately provide full transparency and timely release of data relating to COVID-19," the letter reads.

Bond and Renee Merrifeld, Official Opposition Critic for Health, say they want to see the following: 

  • Detailed daily reporting of all active cases, including variant strains detected in schools that includes a breakdown of staff and students affected
  • The most recent data available on PCR screening for variant cases, including by age, location and the date of screening
  • Provincial capacity for genome sequencing and any delays associated with this step

The letter also states the party wants to see better reporting and collection of: 

  • Exposure settings data — location types and the rate that transmission is occurring
  • Detailed hospitalization demographic data
  • Detailed vaccination progress data based on geography, age group, and socioeconomic categories
  • Daily updates on the number of rapid tests delivered and administered in each health authority by setting
  • Race-based data, other socioeconomic data and cases among people with disabilities

"This data should not only be available to British Columbians in a regular timely manner, but it should also be distributed from a single, consolidated source to improve clarity and consistency across government agencies," the letter continues.

"British Columbians want to be involved in the fight against COVID-19 and they want to do the right thing, but it is frustrating for many when they cannot see the reasoning behind decisions that so greatly impact their lives. The lack of transparency and honesty from your government is leaving people more confused than ever and is contributing to the rising levels of complacency that we are seeing across the province. 

"We urge your government to act immediately and improve transparency and reporting around COVID-19 data in our province, for the sake of all British Columbians."

Bond wasn't the only opposition leader criticizing Horgan and his government for lack of action. 

BC Green Party leader Sonia Furstenau sent out a series of tweets this morning (April 8), calling on the Premier change their strategy. 

"We haven’t been dealt a bad hand," she said.

"What we did was loosen restrictions despite rising variant cases, allow out-of-province travel, stall in-school mask mandates, and did not enforce orders or tailor the message. The 3rd wave is the outcome of that inaction. Neither the methods nor the messaging is working. It cannot only be up to individuals to deal with this crisis."

Furstenau and the BC Greens are calling for the following actions to be taken: 

  • Impose targeted three-week shutdown by: 
    • Enforcing non-essential travel measures
    • Moving school online for most students
    • Providing immediate support to temporarily closed non-essential businesses
  • Increase transparency and revamp public communications by: 
    • Resuming daily COVID-19 briefings
    • Publishing case numbers on weekends and holidays
    • Extending media availability 
    • Adapting new messaging outside of press conferences to target non-compliers 
  • Increasing testing and vaccination capacity by: 
    • Increasing asymptomatic testing and rapid resting
    • Improving reporting on variants of concern
    • Increasing staffing at vaccination clinics and extend hours to administer all doses as soon as they arrive in the province

"The tone in BC has shifted. People are angry, they are anxious, they are scared," Furstenau adds. 

"BC is looking for leadership, not complacency. It is time for government to take ownership of the power they hold."