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Horgan's COVID-19 rule confusion shows consistency, simplicity key in messaging: prof

Last Updated Dec 19, 2020 at 5:40 pm PST

FILE -- Premier John Horgan speaks to the media after the new B.C. government cabinet is sworn in Nov. 26, 2020. (CityNews photo)

The premier changed his holiday plans after NEWS 1130 asked him Thursday who would be at his table this Christmas

A political scientist says when it comes to public health messaging, consistency and simplicity are key

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130)  — John Horgan’s confusion about the COVID-19 rules set by his own government has one political scientist wondering if the province is doing a good enough job communicating its message.

The premier changed his holiday plans after NEWS 1130 asked him Thursday who would be at his table this Christmas. He initially said his son and daughter-in-law would be coming for dinner – a plan approved by Health Minister Adrian Dix.

This plan was made in spite of the fact that gathering with people outside of one’s “immediate household” is not allowed, with some exceptions for people who live alone.

RELATED: B.C. premier cancels family Christmas plans after COVID-19 rule confusion

Hamish Telford, a political scientist at the University for the Fraser Valley, says when it comes to public health messaging — consistency and simplicity are key.

“When we compare ourselves to other countries like Australia and New Zealand — they locked down hard for three months, said don’t leave the house. It wasn’t nice, but it was certainly clear,” he says.

“We had tough rules in the spring and then we relaxed in the summer, we tightened up in the fall, we’ve tightened up again in the winter and that means people aren’t sure what the rules are currently. They don’t realize necessarily that things that they were doing a couple of months ago they can no longer do.”

Nevertheless, he says the fact that Horgan adapted his plan to comply with the restrictions is what matters.

“It is important for leaders to follow these rules as well. In this event John Horgan was caught out, in this case before he made the mistake. Earlier in the year we learned that Doug Ford the premier of Ontario had Easter dinner with his family when he wasn’t supposed, and that was discovered after the fact.”

With files from Bethleham Mariam