If you have been following the news, you might be aware that as of Jan. 18, Quebec began to enforce a proposed mandate requiring customers to show vaccine passports to purchase items from liquor and cannabis stores across the province.
The measure was first announced on Jan. 6 by Quebec health minister Christian Dube, and the week leading up to it taking effect saw the rates of first doses in the province increase by over 33 per cent. By comparison, British Columbia’s Health Minister Adrian Dix has announced that our province would not be taking similar measures, and our vaccine passport program would remain unchanged.
To understand Quebec’s policy and B.C.’s lack thereof, it would be worthwhile to look at the context surrounding it. Dube introduced the policy to curb increases in cases of the Omicron variant, which has been spreading rapidly throughout Canada since the first cases were identified in November 2021.
While both B.C. and Quebec have restricted access to screening centers based on priority, which may affect the accuracy of the data that comes out, the most recent numbers released from Quebec indicate that, from a surface level glance, Quebec might need this policy more than B.C. does.
Additionally, there is an aspect of both provinces’ approach to the issue that seems to be getting overlooked. While Quebec will be requiring customers to have a vaccine passport to enter liquor stores, employees working in these stores are not required by the Société des alcools du Québec to be vaccinated.
This is a stark contrast to the position B.C. is taking on the issue, especially where essential workers are concerned. Unions in B.C. have differing measures on vaccine mandates for example, the B.C. Nurses Union was previously in hot water for an executive’s stance on the issue. However, the BC General Employees Union, which represents liquor store employees and others working in public services, has supported the province’s vaccine mandate since it was announced and requires staff to be vaccinated.
This policy not only adds a layer of protection for these workers, many of whom are post-secondary students, but allows for a greater level of consumer confidence. An online survey conducted by Qualtircs in October in the United States suggested that 49 per cent of respondents said they are more likely to shop at stores with vaccine requirements. Considering that statistic, why Quebec would require liquor store patrons to show a vaccine passport, but not require employees themselves to be vaccinated, is rather mind-boggling.
This is not an attempt to mudsling Quebec while holding B.C. up as a shining example. B.C.’s pandemic policy has plenty of flaws of its own, with the continued insistence that schools are sites of low transmission despite many teachers and parents lacking confidence in the current safety measures.
In terms of liquor stores, I highly doubt anyone in B.C. will be needing to show a vaccine passport for that bottle of Merlot anytime soon. Just wear your mask when you go in — and make sure it’s over your nose. Seriously, it has been two years now.