Langley Advance Times is offering this weekly feature called it “At Your Service.”
It’s another forum in which to put questions to our local politicians about key issues facing our community and its residents.
Using a basic question-and-answer format, elected officials will be asked one question at a time and given the opportunity to respond (to a maximum of 250 words) on that said issue.
Alternating between elected groups, Langley City and Langley Township councils, Langley school board, Langley MLAs, and Langley MPs each have a chance to participate.
The answers provided will be published in their entirety online Sundays.
Langley Township council was asked: Should the Township mandate that all people working for the municipality be vaccinated against COVID-19?
Mayor Jack Froese
A. At this time, we strongly encourage all of our staff (and visitors to Township facilities) to be vaccinated.
The Township is carefully monitoring all directives and recommendations from the various bodies with regulatory oversight, as well as recent decisions in other communities, as we carefully consider a policy with respect to mandatory COVID-19 vaccination requirements.
Councillor Petrina Arnason
A. The unfortunate continuance of the COVID-19 pandemic has created a very complicated response matrix with respect to the protection of citizens and the balancing of personal and societal rights and freedoms.
Within the past 18 months, the Township and all other local governments and districts have been subject to a number of health protocols based on the most recent health order updates issued by the provincial government.
As both an employer and a service provider, the Township is extremely sensitive to both the health of its users and to that of our employees.
As everyone is aware, the concept of mandatory vaccinations is both a difficult, and a very divisive issue.
The Township is, therefore, currently making every effort to ensure that our broader measures remain in compliance with all standards with respect to generalized health and safety, as well as the dictates around privacy and autonomy and other concerns regarding any imposition of mandatory vaccinations for our employees.
The Township has currently not undertaken any definitive response to this issue. But rather, it is seeking informed engagement regarding our legal duties and responsibilities based on the evolution of defined actions undertaken by other public bodies and senior levels of government and larger corporations and agencies throughout Canada.
Overall, there would be a number of considerations to be reviewed alongside the contemplation of any policy, which would need to be tailored so as to address privacy issues, workplace health and safety, as well as embedded labour and employment rights.
Councillor David Davis
A. I believe that people working directly with the public should be vaccinated, with the exception of individuals with medical conditions.
Councillor Steve Ferguson
A. Yes, I believe many municipalities are definitely considering mandating that all people in the municipality get vaccinated against COVID-19.
Our family had a huge shock in 2020, my wife’s father died of COVID-19. We spoke with all the caregivers and our doctors regarding health care and vaccines.
The response: “We encourage everyone to take the vaccines!”
I understand that some individuals have medical and religious reasons, and I believe that should be dealt with professionally with their doctors and care providers, and any extenuating circumstances should be examined through Fraser Health.
In closing, our family is hoping for COVID numbers to decrease, and that through scientific efforts we can all get back to normalcy.
Councillor Margaret Kunst
A. I am double vaccinated, as is my family.
I am thankful for the science that has helped battle this virus and get our country and community slowly back up and running.
I understand not everyone feels the same way I do, and I respect that.
I am uncomfortable with mandating vaccinations, but I understand why governments and some municipalities are doing that and hope that it is a short-term measure while we are in a high-risk period of COVID-19 cases and infections.
It’s heartbreaking to see how this has created so much division, I hope that as the rate of infections go down – as it seems to be doing – that we can return to a time where we don’t need to show a passport because COVID-19 will be in the past.
Until then we need to do what we can to stay safe and healthy, so we can get this behind us.
Councillor Bob Long
A. I believe we need to continue to follow the PHO [provincial health office] orders.
Councillor Kim Richter
Mandatory vaccination is essential for all Township of Langley (TOL) employee positions that directly interact in-person with the public on a daily or regular basis.
TOL employees with documented and medically-verified personal health reasons for not being vaccinated should be accommodated by being moved into positions that do not require any in-person frontline contact of any sort with the public – if such positions exist and are available.
Councillor Blair Whitmarsh
A. I believe in having strong, and safe communities where people feel valued and supported.
The vaccination seems to be one of the effective tools to help keep our communities safe.
For that reason I have chosen to be vaccinated.
There are many factors that must be considered including legal, ethical, social, and the rights and freedoms for all Canadians before making the vaccination a requirement for employment.
Councillor Eric Woodward
A. Given the federal mandate – which includes our local RCMP – and other larger municipalities such as Vancouver having already done so for their employees, we should follow suit.
The way out of the pandemic is getting and maintaining our vaccinations. I support those efforts.
Requiring vaccinations would be following the recommendation from the provincial health officer for large employers to implement vaccine mandates.
It was my hope the province of B.C. would have shown more leadership here, not downloading mandates to municipalities and school districts. We need a consistent policy for the entire province, along with coordination with our unions and other important stakeholders that span multiple public employers.
Almost everyone is now vaccinated, anyway.
A mandatory vaccination policy would ensure a further level of protection for our staff and the public we serve, doing our part to help end the pandemic.
Next week’s Langley school district trustees are being asked: Given an increase in student numbers this year of approximately 900, what can the board do to speed up the creation of new schools?
Watch for their answers online Sunday.