B.C. expected to step up enforcement of "vaccine passport" program

Vax pass enforcement soon

UPDATE: 3:10 p.m.

Premier John Horgan said again on Thursday that businesses that don't enforce the province's proof-of-vaccine program will face “consequences,” and enforcement is expected to be ramped up soon.

The program came into effect Sept. 13, requiring a number of businesses like restaurants, gyms, indoor concerts and sports venues to ask patrons for a proof they've received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.

To date, 3.1 million British Columbians have downloaded their proof of vaccination card.

When the program was announced in August, dozens of B.C. businesses said they would not abide by the program.

“I don't believe wagging fingers is going to solve the problem,” Horgan said during a press conference Thursday.

“What we need to do is to remind those businesses that 3.1 million British Columbians is a really big part of the market and I would expect that the best way forward for a business is to make sure that they're putting in place protocols to encourage that 3.1 million person market to come patronize their establishment.

“For those who want to skirt the rules either by disregarding the passports as a provider of non-essential services, there'll be consequences for that. In terms of enforcement, we're working with communities and health authorities and regions to find the best way to do that. We've always said we don't want a heavy hand here, we want common sense to prevail.”

Ian Tostenson, CEO of the BC Restaurant and Foodservice Association, says his organization has been in discussions with the province about the issue, and "they've assured us they are going to step up enforcement."

“Their approach is to try and counsel a business to comply, then the next stage is a fine and then closure,” Tostenson said.

“We have a list we are aware of of about 70 or 80 licensees that are openly in defiance of the vaccination card program. Those lists are in the hands of government and they will just make their way through the list and see what they can do.”

Tostenson says businesses defying the public health order hurt the integrity of the entire industry.

“You have thousands of businesses who are doing the right thing, and doing this to keep the industry open,” he said.

“And you've got renegades that think it's not important ... they destroy our integrity and also confuse the public who are hearing people say the guy next door isn't and we are. That makes people angry, and it makes it harder for those businesses trying to do the right thing.”

During the federal election, the Liberal Party promised $1 billion in funding to help the province's implement the so-called “vaccine passport” system, but it's unclear when that funding will be delivered.

Penticton's Bad Tattoo Brewing announced Thursday it was shifting to a counter service model to avoid enforcement related to the passport.

ORIGINAL: 1:55 p.m.

Premier John Horgan takes media questions Thursday afternoon following his call with Canada's premiers' Council of the Federation.

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