The leader of the New Brunswick Green Party believes the provincial government is dragging its heels by not developing its own plan for vaccine passports.
David Coon said the province should have a vaccine passport in development already.
He said Premier Blaine Higgs is putting the health of New Brunswickers at risk by not joining other provinces with passport plans.
“I don’t know why the premier has his head buried in the sand on this,” Coon said. “It’s Newfoundland and Labrador. It’s Nova Scotia. It’s P.E.I. It’s Quebec. It’s Ontario. It’s British Columbia. Why, why is he delaying?”
Vaccine passports are digital or physical documents that prove a person’s vaccination status to a business or venue they are trying to patronize.
Supporters say the passports offer an extra level of confidence for consumers and businesses that they are as safe as they can be from possible exposure to COVID-19.
On Tuesday, Global News received an email statement from the province.
“For many reasons, including those outside of travel, a provincial vaccine passport is being considered by the Government of New Brunswick as an option for controlling the spread of COVID-19 in the province,” said Gail Harding, department of health spokesperson.
“A vaccine passport would be developed in collaboration with the federal government. The priority is to create a standardized, and versatile, vaccination passport or record of immunization for Canadians and New Brunswickers who need to travel, and that it is developed and distributed as soon as possible.”
Coon said New Brunswick should be working with the other Atlantic provinces to make a system that is as seamless and efficient as possible, but he said he’s not seeing any collaboration. Nova Scotia announced its intention to create a vaccine passport on Wednesday. Newfoundland and Labrador and Prince Edward Island also said this week a passport system is coming.
“If we don’t hang together, we hang alone,” Coon said. “I’m tired of this business about not cooperating with our neighbouring Maritime provinces on this public health emergency. We need to be working together. We need to be moving in lock-step to ensure that we’re protecting our population.”
The Canadian Federation of Independent Business said most of its members support vaccine passports for international travel and access to large events.
But CFIB Atlantic senior director Louis-Philippe Gauthier said that support wavers as many businesses, already suffering from the pandemic, are asked to potentially enforce passport regulations.
That enforcement could include the need to hire staff and buy equipment, Gauthier said.
“Then the provincial government should provide liability indemnity for businesses from their customers if there’s ever a lawsuit or a human rights complaint,” Gauthier said. “And on top of it, if there’s any cost? Well, that should be on the government’s dime.”
Coon says New Brunswick lifted its pandemic-related restrictions too soon.
He took to Twitter on Tuesday to restate a call for the provincial government to reimpose a mask mandate and require isolation and testing for unvaccinated travellers to New Brunswick.