At a press conference Wednesday afternoon, CityNews reporter Adrian Ghobrial asked city leaders a very simple question:
“How many tickets have been handed out to establishments that haven’t been following the mandated vaccine certificate program?”
The answer he received might set a world record for the longest-winded way of saying one word: “none.”
“There’s over 8,000 restaurants in the city of Toronto,” Carleton Grant, executive director of Toronto’s municipal licensing and standards (MLS), told Ghobrial, whose recent reporting revealed that a slew of downtown Toronto restaurants failed to properly enforce the vaccine certificate mandate.
“This is a joint enforcement effort between public health and MLS,” Grant continued.
“Public health is responsible for bars, restaurants, nightclubs, sporting events, concerts, movie theatres. And MLS is responsible for gyms, fitness clubs and adult entertainment clubs.
“As a group we collaborate on this. Since [the mandate has] come into place we’ve received about 900 complaints … and so far to date, while we have not issued tickets or charges, we have issued a number of warning letters to different restaurants.
“But again our objective is to work with these small businesses and inform them of their requirements, as the onus is on the business to check this information and that’s something we’ve been doing very actively.”
To make a long story short, the city has heard roughly 900 complaints about businesses failing to enforce vaccine passports and issued exactly zero tickets. But don’t worry, it says, the education campaign continues. Businesses that fail to properly check for vaccine certificates may receive a warning.
This stunning lack of enforcement would be easier to swallow if COVID-19 cases remained stable in the province. But they’re on the rise, in some part because businesses are being lax.
“We continue to see outbreaks, in particular banquet halls and nightclubs, many of these have been linked to non-compliance with COVID precautions, notably screening, masking and vaccine certificate regulations,” Dr. Lawrence Loh, Peel Region’s medical officer of health, told reporters recently.
It’s possible some of these businesses are making honest mistakes or having a tough time enforcing a policy that accepts both electronic and paper vaccine proof. It’s also possible unvaccinated people are slipping through the system because restaurants are forgetting to verify picture ID. Where this is the case, warnings and education may be appropriate — to a point. But this isn’t always the case.
Mayor John Tory relied on anecdotal evidence Wednesday to convey his belief the passport system is working.
“Where I’ve been, a dozen places at least, my experience has been without fail they have asked me for both my QR code and prior to that the printout from the COVAX registration system and my identification,” he said, neglecting to mention that wherever he shows up people are probably inclined to follow the rules.
Conversely, I’ve heard anecdotes that tell a different story than Tory’s: that some bars in the GTA flat out ignore the policy.
It’s hard to fathom, then, how a business owner sympathetic to unvaccinated patrons — or worse, anti-vax ideology — would be swayed to comply because of a mere warning. If education failed to convince them of the safety and efficacy of vaccines, it’s not going to convince them to enforce a rule that rewards the vaccinated. What might? Presumably a legitimate consequence: a.k.a. a fine.
Honestly, what is the point of these rules if businesses that refuse to enforce them face no meaningful consequence? If I was a business owner deliberately lax on vaccine certificates and I caught Wednesday’s press conference I would have no incentive to change my behaviour.
But it isn’t just the city muddying things where public health messaging is concerned. If I was a person still unwilling to be vaccinated I would feel pretty good about Premier Doug Ford’s premature declaration that he wants to lift all restrictions, from mask wearing to vaccine certificate mandates by March.
At this stage of the pandemic, as in all stages, much of public health messaging comes off as wilfully misleading.
“Businesses must enforce vaccine passports” (or face absolutely no consequence).
“Try to limit contacts outside your household” (unless you’re at a Raptors game).
“Wear a mask” (unless you’re eating and drinking).
“Order your drinks off a non-touch menu” (while sharing the air with dozens of unmasked strangers).
Whatever you say.
Article From: The Star
Author: Emma Teitel