B.C. premier unfairly blames youth as new lockdown kicks in


The cast of Saturday Night Live busted out the grey wigs and fake wrinkles this week for a musical sketch that takes a jab at the age-based rollout of COVID-19 vaccinations in the U.S.

The video has since gone (appropriately) viral. “Boomers Got the Vax” pokes some well-deserved fun at a generation that graduated from college with little-to-no student debt, easily got secure jobs with pension plans — and is now first in line to get vaccinated.

Sample lyrics: “Baby boomers, greatest generation / Got all the money, now we got the vaccination / Crashed the economy three whole times, but when it comes to the vax, we the first in line / Voted for Trump, but just for the taxes / Don’t believe in COVID, still got the vaxes.”

It’s funny because it’s true. But while vaccine envy has unquestionably become a real thing, most rational young and middle-aged adults are in full support of older, more vulnerable populations getting vaccinated first, and are willing to stoically soldier on while waiting for their eventual turn for a shot.

So it was a bit of a kick in the teeth for many struggling millennials and gen-Yers to be singled out by the leader of British Columbia at a televised news conference on Monday for the frightening new increase in cases.

NDP Premier John Horgan made a rare appearance at the podium, alongside Health Minister Adrian Dix and Provincial Health Officer Bonnie Henry, to point the finger of blame at younger B.C. residents for not doing enough to help stop the variant-influenced surge.

“I know that people who tune in regularly to see Dr. Henry and Minister Dix are following the rules,” Horgan said. “They are paying attention to the details and focusing on making sure they do their part to get British Columbia through this.

“The cohort from 20 to 39 are not paying as much attention to these broadcasts, and, quite frankly, are putting the rest of us in a challenging situation,” he continued. “Don’t blow this for the rest of us.”

Horgan, 61, made the comments as the province announced its most extensive restrictions — dubbed a three-week “circuit breaker” — since the height of the first wave of the pandemic.

Indoor dining, group fitness activities, and religious gatherings have all been kiboshed until at least April 19, and the tourist magnet that is the Whistler-Blackcomb ski resort has been ordered to shut down prematurely for the season.

Public health guidance for schools has also been updated, and students down to Grade 4 will now be expected to wear masks inside the classroom in the immediate future. The dramatic move came after the province recorded 2,518 new cases in the previous three days, including six deaths and a record 936 cases on Saturday.

Setting aside the fact that this is a man who said B.C. was “on the right track” just two weeks ago, and who only cancelled plans to join his extended family for Christmas after a public shaming, it seems a bit rich for him to demonize a demographic that doesn’t necessarily have the option to simply work from home or rely on their savings.

This is an age group that makes up a large part of the front-line workforce in the restaurant, grocery, transit, and retail industries. They were asked to keep working and they did. Now it’s somehow their fault for getting sick and spreading the virus? It’s a bit like blaming the residents of nursing homes for high fatality rates; it’s not as if they have much choice in the matter. Sky-high Vancouver rents still need to be paid, and the province stopped offering emergency financial help for renters way back in August.

Horgan isn’t necessarily wrong to call out constituents. A recent Insights West poll found that British Columbians are the worst in Canada for following pandemic precautions, with only 34 per cent claiming they follow all the rules all the time, which is 14 to 22 points lower than in other provinces.

But, as someone who has a side gig driving a water taxi in Vancouver, I can tell you with some authority it isn’t younger passengers who need constant reminding to wear masks on board. Or that, yes, nostrils have to be covered, too. Instead, it’s typically those who feel entitled to seniors’ discounts, and who often prefer to pay their fares in grimy handfuls of loose change instead of simply and safely tapping with cards or phones.

A reporter at the (virtual, obviously) news conference asked Horgan if any government assistance would be offered to workers who unexpectedly find themselves out of a job for the next three weeks — and possibly longer, if their places of employment don’t survive yet another shutdown.

“We’ll develop new programs as required,” the premier responded.

OK Boomer, as the kids like to say.

MORE FLEMING: Call-centre chaos rings sour note in vaccination rollout

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