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Sooke chamber gets mixed opinions in survey on vaccine passports

Online poll finds businesses, consumers see issue of implementation slightly differently
The Sooke Region Chamber of Commerce has published results of an online survey of local business owners and consumers on their thoughts on the use and implementation of the province’s vaccine passport system. (Courtesy Sooke Region Chamber of Commerce)

An online survey of consumers and business owners tied to the Sooke region revealed mixed opinions towards vaccine passports and how they should be implemented.

The Sooke Region Chamber of Commerce online survey of 71 participants found just over half of business respondents (56 per cent) did not support the requirement of vaccine passports in B.C. establishments. Consumers were slightly more in favour (63 per cent); of those who were opposed, 95 per cent said they would prefer risking an economic shutdown to mandating a proof-of-vaccination system.

While chamber executive director Britt Santowski said she believes a vaccine passport is the only way to ensure local businesses against another shutdown, she said the chamber has made no official stance on whether a passport mandate should be enforced. She voiced surprised that nearly half of businesses surveyed were opposed to the passport.

“This passport (conversation) has created a divide deeper than any other (COVID) measure in the past,” she said.

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Based on the survey results, Santowski said the chamber will continue working with counterparts around B.C. to lobby the provincial government.

“The policing of the mandate falls on the person at the front door, and quite often, that’s a younger person (or) at least senior staff,” she said. “Even the mechanics of (the mandate) – nobody knew if (passports) were going to be scanned or a phone, and a lot of that is still up in the air.”

At the very least, the mixed opinions found in the survey point to a need for more action and clarity from government regarding vaccine passports, Santowski said. “Working with changing rules is really difficult for business.”

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Sooke’s local economy has fared well throughout the pandemic, Santowski said.

“We had some businesses shut down, but not as many as expected,” she said. Because of the sizeable population of employees commuting to Victoria and West Shore businesses, the town wasn’t hurt by a tourism dependency when the pandemic struck.

Of business owners who favoured the vaccine passport in the survey, slightly more preferred a government mandate (42 per cent) than an opt-in choice (37 per cent).

If necessary, the decision is obvious, Santowski said.

“(A government mandate) takes the burden of responsibility off the individual owner … it’s easier to say ‘we were mandated to do it’ as opposed to ‘this is our personal decision,’” she said.

The survey was a Google form disseminated through the chamber’s email list and social media channel, which could not guarantee all respondents were from the Sooke region, Santowski said.

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