Cities warned from declaring local states of emergency, Abbotsford mayor says

Mayor Henry Braun says solicitor general discouraged such declarations, warning of ‘chaos’

British Columbia’s mayors were discouraged from declaring their own states of emergency, Abbotsford Mayor Henry Braun said Monday (March 23).

Speaking at the council meeting Monday afternoon, Braun said the City of Abbotsford won’t be declaring a local state of emergency and that on a phone call earlier in the day with B.C.’s mayors, provincial Solicitor General Mike Farnworth had discouraged such declarations.

Braun said that Farnworth told the mayors that local states of emergency aren’t helpful. Braun said mayors were told that having municipalities make such declarations “doesn’t work, that just creates chaos because it interrupts supply chains. And the supply chains will be managed by the provincial government.”

Braun said Abbotsford is doing its best to deal with the changes caused by the current “unprecedented” situation.

“I know you’re frustrated by the current uncertainty and that your level of fear and anxiety is easily heightened because of that uncertainty and I understand that,” he said. “Your entire city council and staff are working to help alleviate both your frustration and fears with both information and action.”

But he pushed back at critics of the city’s response, saying the city was taking its lead solely from senior levels of government and provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry.

“Her orders are not suggestions or recommendations; they are orders and they need to be followed,” Braun said. “There are many competing voices, especially on social media. We have one point person and that is Dr. Bonnie Henry and while I respect the views of others, I will not succumb to the pressure of others, even doctors and nurses, much as I respect what they are doing.

“We are in a war with a virus and we have a chain of command, and Dr. Henry is our point person and we will do whatever she tells us to do.”

The public could only view Monday’s meeting online. With the public gone, the city worked to observe social distancing at Matsqui Centennial Auditorium by spacing out councillors. Several sat in the normal spots of staff, who in turn sat in seats normally reserved for the audience.

Braun also spoke of efforts to increase the number of staff members who are working from home. Henry has said everybody who can work from home should do so. But last week, a staff member voiced discontent to The News with the time it was taking for the city to ensure its employees could work remotely.

RELATED: ‘Not pro-active at all’: City Hall criticized by employee for COVID-19 work policy

RELATED: All playgrounds in Abbotsford closed

“We have a plan and it’s being rolled out,” Braun said. “Some staff are already working off site and more will join them this week … We are actively working on how to provide the services that our private businesses and our citizens need to keep operating.”

Braun also again encouraged people to head outside, while maintaining a social distance of at least two metres from others.

He cited Henry’s declarations that doing so was OK, and said he and his wife headed to Mill Lake over the weekend and saw people complying with her orders.

“We must maintain that two-metre social distance. My wife and I went for a walk around Mill Lake … We had a great round trip around Mill Lake and I would say that 98 per cent of the people we saw and encountered were maintaining separation.”

He said the playgrounds were still in use by some, though, and noted that the city took action Monday to officially close the structures.

But, he added: “The parks remain open. Dr. Henry encouraged people to go outside – just not within two metres of one another.”

Braun again urged people to help one another.

“We will continue to get through this crisis by working together,” he said. “On behalf of council, a big thank you to our first responders, hospital and health car,e personnel, grocery clerks, delivery drivers, farmers and all the others who help us continue to keep well.”

Do you have something to add to this story, or something else we should report on? Email:
tolsen@abbynews.com


@ty_olsen
Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Coronavirus

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Comox Valley Transition Society available for women who need help throughout pandemic

“We anticipate more women than usual will access our resources, but we do have plans in place.”

Hip tradition sing-along planned again for Canadians April 2

The Tragically Hip’s Paul Langlois is encouraging all to join him virtually in a’Porch Session.’

Comox Valley Regional District approves emergency funding to address community COVID-19 issues

The Comox Valley Regional District’s board of directors has approved $148,279 in… Continue reading

Search for missing man comes to sad conclusion

The man reported missing to the Campbell River RCMP on March 30… Continue reading

Courtenay pharmacy donates some sanitizer despite high demand

Pure Integrative Pharmacy provides some to Glacier Village, Comox Valley Transition Society

‘We don’t need this right now’: B.C. man breaks up road rage incident

Two men were throwing punches on Tillicum Road in Saanich on Vancouver Island

Comox Valley grocers going extra mile during coronavirus

We have had numerous requests to post a fluid article directing consumers… Continue reading

COVID-19: ‘The Ballad of Bonnie Henry’ recorded and released

LISTEN: Quick turnaround for song penned by B.C. Order of Canada musician Phil Dwyer

B.C. adding $300 to monthly income and disability assistance payments

‘Crisis supplement’ for COVID-19 for April, May and June

‘A matter of human decency’: Truckers’ union calls on gas stations, rest stops to fully re-open

Teamsters Canada wants feds, provinces to put pressure on facilities to re-open for transport workers

Migrant worker advocates blame feds, employers for COVID-19 outbreak at B.C. garden store

Migrant farm worker group calls on government for adequate health and safety requirements

‘There can be no ambiguity’: Travellers brought home to B.C. must self-isolate

Health Minister Adrian Dix said the mandatory isolation must be abided by

COVID-19 has been impacting Canadian economy since January

But full effects of pandemic won’t be known for months

Most Read