Canada Election: Vaccine rule mix-up leads to cancelled debate in B.C. riding of Chilliwack–Hope

WATCH: The in-person debated scheduled for Tuesday night for candidates in the Chilliwack-Hope riding was cancelled after the Conservative candidate threatened to not show up if the unvaccinated PPC candidate was not allowed to participate. Emad Agahi reports.

A misunderstanding about B.C.’s new vaccine card rules seems to be at the centre of a strange series of events on the campaign trail in the riding of Chilliwack–Hope.

Close to 200 people were expected to attend an all-candidates debate organized by the Chilliwack Arts & Cultural Centre Society.

But it’s understood that organizers, citing the new provincial health order, told People’s Party of Canada (PPC) candidate Rob Bogunovic that he would have to debate remotely because he is not vaccinated.

Conservative candidate Mark Strahl then made it clear he would not attend.

The board of directors at the city-owned Chilliwack Arts and Cultural Society decided to cancel Tuesday night’s in-person all-candidate forum altogether.

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“It had nothing to do with the vaccine mandates, vaccine passports,” Strahl said during a virtual debate that took place Monday night. “It had everything to do with equality.”

Buganovic said he thanked Strahl during the online debate.

“He said he would have done that for any candidate,” Buganovic said.

The Chilliwack Arts and Cultural Society board did not comment on the decision. In response to an interview request, Global News was told that Strahl was busy campaigning.

“We lost the one and only in-person debate in a format that was going to be safe,” NDP candidate DJ Pohl said.

“What he’s done is sided with the PPC party and said that vaccinations aren’t important,” Velonis said of Strahl.

After examining the rules late in the day, Fraser Health told Global News that political candidates are exempt from the vaccine card in this capacity and should have been allowed to debate in person.

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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