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Coherent, constructive COVID-19 messaging needed ahead of 420 Vancouver: expert

Last Updated Apr 19, 2021 at 7:11 pm PDT


Province, cities need a coordinated, constructive COVID-19 message ahead of 420 celebrations says political expert

Hamish Telford says politicians should tell people what they can do, rather than just what they can't do

Official 420 celebrations at Sunset Beach cancelled for second year due to pandemic

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – The province and municipalities need a coordinated and constructive COVID-19 message ahead of 420 celebrations, according to one political analyst, as daily case counts remain high and variants continue to spread.

Due to ongoing health restrictions and concerns, 420 Vancouver organizers said for the second year in a row there will be no official gathering at Sunset Beach, but people could still decide to show up.

“We do need a coherent messaging strategy, and we have to figure out who the right people are to deliver the message,” University of the Fraser Valley political science professor Hamish Telford said.

Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart took to Twitter Sunday to chastise people who attended a party at English Bay on Saturday. Saying police “have better things to do” than enforce COVID-19 restrictions, he asked people to “stay close to home and out of large groups.”

Telford questions whether Stewart’s actions were appropriate or even effective.

I’m not sure how many young people are on Twitter. I think their preferred social media sites are things like Instagram Tik Tok WhatsApp, and so forth,” he said. “It’s not clear that the messages are going to reach them unless they happen to be following the mayor and I’m guessing not many people are.”

Premier John Horgan came under criticism last month for singling out people aged 20 top 39 to “not blow this for the rest of us” and follow health restrictions.

Telford adds politicians getting involved in police operations can have swift blowback. Ontario Premier Doug Ford reversed sweeping new police powers Saturday, just one day after they were announced. Civil libertarians and pundits attacked the restrictions which would have allowed officers to stop any pedestrian or vehicle to ask why they are out or request their home address.

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Rather than criticize people for what they can’t do, Telford encourages political and health leaders to let people know what they can do.

“After 13, 14 months of this, people are incredibly bored and frustrated with a lack of things to do. Let them know what the alternatives are so that they can sort of release some of their energy and and not go stir crazy,” he said. “If they do the wrong thing, then perhaps the police can be called in at that point you know they’ve been given fair warning given alternatives and they’ve not followed them.”

He acknowledges politicians like Stewart are in a tough position of wanting to encourage people to follow the rules, but not be too harsh in their messaging.

With files from Jonathan Szekeres