The caucus of the Conservative Party of BC joined about 50 people rallying outside the provincial legislature Thursday calling on B.C. to end its vaccination mandate for health care workers.
The rally took place a day after BC Conservative House Leader Bruce Banman called on the provincial government to fire provincial health officer Bonnie Henry and bring back “thousands of health care workers who were wrongly kicked to the curb” because of the mandate.
“This is not about opposing the jab,” Banman said. “It is about ending the medical tyranny of this NDP government and Dr. Bonnie Henry. Enough cajoling, enough coercing and enough deflecting. It’s time to be held accountable.”
Thursday’s rally continued that theme as BC Conservative Party Leader John Rustad repeated his argument that lifting the vaccination mandate would help the health care system, especially in rural B.C.
“One doctor can make a huge difference,” he said. “A couple of nurses make a huge differences. We should be doing everything we can to get those health care workers back in our system.”
Rustad also repeated his party’s critique of Henry. While Henry did her best to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic during its height, “every other jurisdiction” in the world is learning how to deal with it without mandates, he said.
“It seems to be an ideological bent,” he said, adding that everybody trained needs to be in the health care system.
“(Quite) frankly, Bonnie Henry is preventing those people from being in our system. That is causing harm to our health-care system and for that reason…we should be looking at a different health care officer in this province.”
Rustad made these comments after the rally heard from eight speakers from the medical and non-medical community.
Several speakers like Jan Webb, who introduced herself as a retired nurse, accused government of over-stepping its authority by mandating health care workers to get vaccinated. Webb said she never anticipated that government would mandate vaccination.
“That’s kind of like going back to the 1940s,” she said. “But they did.”
Other speakers questioned the safety of COVID-19 vaccines, or accused government of exaggerating the seriousness of COVID-19 in pointing to alternative treatment options.
Health Minister Adrian Dix defended Henry both Wednesday and Thursday.
“How can you have so much contempt for people who live in long-term care?” Dix said during Question Period in response to Banman.”How can you have so much contempt for people who have to be in acute care? (When) we know that it’s the most vulnerable who are most vulnerable to COVID-19, how can you take the view that we should have abandoned them?”
B.C., he added, had the best response to COVID-19 because of Henry.
“I think it is shameful that she’s being targeted in this way by a political party in this (legislature),” he said. “She has done a great, courageous and remarkable job. I stand with her, and I hope everyone in this House does.
Dix said Thursday that 99 per cent of health-care workers are vaccinated. “So there is a difference between a 50-50 issue and 99-to-1 issue,” Dix said, adding that he encounters a genuine appreciation for Henry across B.C.
Henry answered questions at length in both public and private settings and worked directly with the opposition.
“I cannot think of an occasion when she did not treat their questions with respect or they did not treat her with respect,” Dix said.
BC Greens Thursday also faced questions about their rhetorical treatment of Henry when Sonia Furstenau used the phrase “gaslighting” in October 2022 when speaking about Henry’s comments concerning COVID-19 cases in schools.
Furstenau said she does not think Henry was gaslighting.
“I think in the context of Question Period, that has been used, but I think we need transparency and accountability from public service in this province.”
Furstenau also rejected suggestions that the BC Greens’ COVID-19 conversation lines up with the Conservatives.
“We have never questioned the efficacy of vaccines,” she said. “We have looked to evidence-based health approaches to ensure that there is the lowest amount of (COVID) transmission possible.”