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Local MLAs frustrated by B.C.’s latest restrictions

MLAs for both Columbia River-Revelstoke and Kootenay East voiced their frustrations with the latest restrictions in B.C., limiting indoor gatherings, advocating for a regional approach to guidelines.

On Monday, the B.C. Government put a three-week ban on indoor dining and group workouts. It also pushed back a temporary variance which would have allowed for indoor faith services.

That said, restaurants may still offer take-out and delivery services, gyms can hold one-on-one workouts and faith groups are allowed to gather outside. The new measures will be in place until at least April 19th.

Columbia River-Revelstoke MLA Doug Clovechok said he has heard frustrations from his riding from Monday’s announcement.

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“My office has been inundated with emails and phone calls, not only from restauranteurs but also from people who thought this new ruling was nothing more than an ambush,” said Clovechok. “There’s a lot of very angry people out there right now.”

Kootenay East MLA Tom Shypitka said the restrictions do not take B.C.’s wide range of environments into account.

“(Premier) John Horgan sits back and says we’re going to open up patio hours. Well, it snowed in Fernie recently, we don’t have the same weather conditions down here. It’s not as easy to open up your patio when it’s hovering around the 0-degree mark,” said Shypitka.

Clovechok echoed the thoughts, saying every region is different and should be treated as such.

“People are being told that we here in Columbia-River Revelstoke or Kootenay East are the same as a community in the lower mainland, and we’re not,” said Clovechok. “They say that you can go to outdoor patios, and I’m looking out my window and there’s snow on the ground, so we don’t have many outside patios. You can’t compare us, we’re different out here.”

Clovechok and Sypitka advocate for a regional approach to restrictions, saying each area has different needs.

Both MLAs spoke of the broader implications the restrictions may have on the public.

“I got calls from single moms and dads saying ‘what are we going to do? We can’t live without a cheque for three weeks.’ It’s not only that, from an employer’s perspective, these people are going to look for another job. Are these people who have now been laid off going to come back if they’ve found another job somewhere else? It’s unforeseen consequences, this government doesn’t think beyond their nose,” said Clovechok.

Shypitka said the new restrictions will impact more than just restaurants and gyms.

“We had, for example, a janitorial service call us up and say their contracts have been closed out for a month because of these closures, they don’t have any restaurants to clean. Accountants that do services for small businesses and advertisers are going to be impacted by this because people won’t be advertising,” explained Shypitka. “If there’s one thing that COVID has taught us all, is that we’re all interconnected. We all rely on everyone.”

In Monday’s press conference, Horgan pinned the blame of a recent increase in COVID-19 cases on young people, aged 20 to 39. Chovechok said it is an unfair accusation.

“I know people in this valley in that age group, and they have worked so hard to do everything they’ve needed to do. There’s always going to be people who break the rules, but the majority of young people have done exactly what they’ve been asked. It’s unfortunate that Horgan had to point a finger at a group of people and say you’re going to blow it for us all,” said Clovechok.

Shypitka said his office has started collecting testimonials from businesses and the public to gauge the reaction to the new rules.

“I’ve been in touch with all the Chamber of Commerce in the area and I suggested that people send me their testimonials, and just today alone we had close to 75 businesses get in touch with us,” said Shypitka.

Clovechok added that his office has also accumulated concerns from residents.

“We’ve got stacks of testimonials already, and we’re going to be sharing that with our critic. We’ll be using those to let Horgan know how displeased people in my riding are with this decision,” said Clovechok.

More: B.C. reacts to rise in COVID-19 cases with changes to regulations around gatherings (March 29, 2021)

More: Restaurant owners ready to “pivot” once again amidst latest COVID-19 restrictions (March 30, 2021)

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