B.C. Premier John Horgan risks justifying the mistreatment of fellow Canadians and those who enter the province from the United States, writes David Marsden. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito

David Marsden: Hey, B.C., fear of COVID-19 is no reason to be mean

No doubt if you bumped into B.C. Premier John Horgan on the street in Victoria, he’d be cordial.

He seems a pleasant sort of gentleman, after all.

Still, he could be more supportive of Albertans and other non-British Columbians who find themselves being harassed for driving their cars in the province.

Motorists from outside B.C. have increasingly been the recipients of a stern scolding, whether it’s a dressing down at the curb or a nasty note left under the windshield wiper. In rare cases, the reception amounts to abuse.

The unneighbourliness stems from some British Columbians’ belief that COVID-19 permits them to infringe on other Canadians’ right to travel.

Frankly, they’d be better off encouraging adherence to sound public health practices by everybody, rather than berating a family on their way to visit cousins in Courtenay.

Tourism is a major economic generator for every province, British Columbia in particular. The injection of money from Albertans and other tourists should be especially welcome at a time when the economy can use some activity.

Horgan’s advice to those who find themselves being harassed by local residents is to take a bus or ride a bicycle.

“I would suggest, perhaps, public transit,” he told reporters. “I would suggest that they get their plates changed. I would suggest they ride a bike.”

B.C.’s premier gets top marks for being environmentally friendly, but it’s foolish to suggest that someone arriving on the West Coast could rely on buses and bikes to get around.

Buses don’t always go where you want to be taken, and they can be a challenge for newcomers who are unfamiliar with their surroundings.

And a bike? Surely, Horgan must realize it’s impossible to carry more than a few belongings on two wheels, or to efficiently cover long distances. Not every visitor is physically able to ride a bike, and neither is cycling appropriate in all kinds of weather.

Instead of proposing half-baked ideas about alternate transportation, Horgan should be a voice of reason.

To his credit, the premier encourages B.C. residents to consider the individual circumstances of drivers before making judgments about their licence plates.

But then he counsels Albertans and others that they should be aware that B.C. has embraced numerous health restrictions in a bid to reduce the spread of COVID-19.

“What I can tell these individuals is there’s a high degree of certainty in B.C. that we want to keep our borders closed until neighbouring jurisdictions get a better handle on COVID-19,” he said.

“Those who are overtly declaring by their licence plates that they’re from somewhere else should be mindful of that.”

Horgan risks justifying the mistreatment of fellow Canadians and those who enter B.C. from the United States. Driving a vehicle with out-of-province licence plates is not an overt declaration. It’s the law. And only those who move to the province can register their car in British Columbia.

A Blackfalds nurse was returning home after visiting family in Summerland last Thursday, when the front wheel of her vehicle mysteriously flew off on the highway. The family believes the SUV, which carries Alberta plates, was sabotaged.

Horgan and every other right-thinking person would condemn reckless vandalism such as this. But in tacitly condoning the everyday challenging of visitors to the province, they increase the possibility of extremism.

It’s not just COVID-19 that threatens British Columbians’ health. A nasty case of unhealthy fear is also making the rounds.

David Marsden is managing editor of the Red Deer Advocate.

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