“We can’t let up,” said mayor Al Raine
The mayor of Sun Peaks is calling on local business owners to practise vigilance when it comes to following COVID-19 rules and regulations amid increased scrutiny of the ski industry by provincial authorities.
“We can’t let up. We have to keep the pedal to the metal in terms of vigilance around COVID,” said Sun Peaks Mountain Resort Municipality (SPMRM) mayor Al Raine.
“We have been very, very fortunate so far.”
Raine recently sent out two letters—to village business owners on Feb. 5 and short-term rental property owners on Feb. 8—that underscored the need to follow provincial rules and regulations.
“I suspect that we will see much more stringent enforcement around any group arrivals that consist of people who are outside of their usual household,” read Raine’s Feb. 8 letter to some short-term rental property owners.
“It is obvious that fines and stronger penalties are being applied everywhere. Please be sure that all of your reservations comply with Provincial regulations.”
The letter also asked property owners to ensure their management staff are attentive to the number of people in their respective rental property.
“If a party were to be held in your property and the RCMP or municipal bylaw is called, there may be a large penalty to be paid. As an owner, you may have some liability,” stated Raine in the letter.
According to the provincial health officer’s orders on gatherings and events, contact information for all guests and visitors must be collected. SPIN could not immediately confirm if vacation rental owners could be fined for guests gathering outside of their household.
Raine took the step to reach out to the public after having an emergency telephone meeting with Municipal Affairs Minister Josie Osborne on Feb. 5 during which the two discussed how Sun Peaks has fared when it comes to COVID-19.
Raine said he highlighted the coordinated approach the community has taken to limit the spread of COVID-19 in the village. He said some smart strategic moves early on from Sun Peaks Resort LLP, along with a proactive approach from the Sun Peaks Community Health Centre, have been effective in limiting the number of diagnosed cases in the community to around 20.
“I was pleased to say that we’ve got a pretty positive story,” said Raine, recalling his conversation with the minister.
“It is certainly not a situation where COVID is running wild in Sun Peaks. In fact, it’s the exact opposite.”
Other B.C. resort communities—including Whistler, Big White and Revelstoke—have not fared so well. According to provincial authorities Whistler is facing a particularly alarming situation, as it saw 547 diagnosed cases of COVID-19 from Jan. 1 to Feb. 2.
A number of prominent Whistler bars and restaurants have temporarily closed after being listed as COVID-19 exposure sites by public health authorities.
Raine said the municipality has not given out any fines related to COVID-19.
In an email to SPIN, SPMRM acting chief administrative officer Nicky Braithwaite said the municipality does not have any COVID-19 related bylaws and therefore its bylaw officers are not able to levy fines.
“Having said that, we work closely with the rural detachment of the RCMP,” wrote Braithwaite. “When complaints are received, we contact them and they, along with bylaw will address the issue. To date, there have been a few complaints but I am not aware of any fines being issued in Sun Peaks.”
The RCMP was unable to comment on if it has issued any fines by press time.
In his interview with SPIN, Raine said from his perspective the municipality is most concerned with the possibility of groups of unrelated people filing into a single rental accommodation.
“If [people are] renting to non-family groups, they should be careful, because I think we all recognize that sometimes a small group of people come and rent a place and then invite ten others to join them,” said Raine.
Raine’s comments come as ski resorts brace for an specialized “action plan” from the province to curb the spread of COVID-19.
On Friday, health minister Adrian Dix said the Ministry of Tourism is expected to release an action plan for ski resorts this week.
In his comments, Dix said the actions would target the source of transmissions and also noted that transmission in resort communities is related to social settings, not skiing.
“It’s not skiing on the mountain that’s been the principal source of transmission,” he said.
In an email to SPIN, Christopher Nicolson, chief executive officer of the Canada West Ski Areas Association, said the industry is not expecting any changes to the province’s ski operations.
“In recent weeks, the industry has worked closely with Tourism Minister [Melanie] Mark on collaborating with community partners on things like ‘no social gatherings’ to reduce transmissions,” wrote Nicolson. “We are not expecting new rules around ski operations.”
Having garnered the attention of the province for all the wrong reasons, Whistler businesses are facing increased scrutiny from provincial authorities.
A WorkSafe BC inspection blitz at Whistler businesses on Jan. 30 and 31 revealed widespread violations of COVID-19 infractions.
Thirty-five of 62 workplaces that were visited were written up for offences such as not having proper sanitary equipment available, not adhering to occupancy limits and not having a COVID safety plan altogether.
Raine said vigilance is needed to ensure that Sun Peaks doesn’t go the way of Whistler.
“I just wanted to remind everybody to make sure you’re following the recommendations and the regulations,” he said.