News this week of the wealthy CEO and his actress wife, who apparently chartered a plane from Vancouver, then posed as itinerant workers in a remote Indigenous community to acquire a precious shot of vaccine, has become a story worthy of a modern parable.
The COVID-19 vaccine is a precious commodity, an increasingly rare elixir containing the promise of a better life and a path out of a year of anxiety and grief. All provinces and territories have been careful to ensure the first to receive the shot are those who are elderly and most at risk, regardless of their means.
Rod Baker was the CEO of Great Canadian Gaming Company – he resigned Sunday – who made a $45.9-million profit on stock options over the past 13 months, and, as Globe reporter David Milstead writes today, is due to receive another $28-million when the company is sold to a U.S. buyer this year.
Mr. Baker and his wife, actress Ekaterina Baker, apparently wanted a shot of the vaccine badly enough that they flew to Whitehorse, evaded the territory’s 14-day quarantine for visitors, chartered a plane to the tiny community of Beaver Creek and claimed to be working for the local motel. They were vaccinated and then asked for a ride back to the airport.
The ask for a ride is what tipped off the locals that something was amiss and the couple were issued $575 fines for failing to self-isolate for 14 days and for lying about it.
Mr. Baker and his wife have not commented since the story blew up on Monday. The gambling and entertainment company announced Mr. Baker’s resignation, ending a tenure that began in 2011. He also stepped down from the company’s board of directors.
“Great Canadian’s board of directors has no tolerance for actions that run counter to the company’s objectives and values,” read a statement from Chuck Keeling, the company’s vice-president of stakeholder relations.
Chief Angela Demit of the White River First Nation in Beaver Creek said her community was chosen to get the vaccine because of its remoteness, its elderly and high-risk population, and limited access to health care.
“These vaccines are for our community members, our citizens here,” Chief Demit said. “It’s alarming and disappointing that something like this happened.”
The residents of Beaver Creek were unimpressed, with both the Bakers and the fine.
“I don’t think a $500 fine is going to give any kind of justice to anybody because the guy can obviously afford to charter a ...plane,” said Rita Luxton, manager of the 1202 Motor Inn, where the two people told clinic staff they worked.
B.C.’s Public Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said the pair “should be ashamed of themselves. They put a community at risk for their own benefit and that, to me, is appalling.”
On Tuesday, B.C.’s Solicitor-General Mike Farnworth called the effort to jump the queue for the vaccine “one of the most despicable things that I’ve seen in a long time.”
“It shows a complete lack of any sort of ethical or moral compass,” Farnworth said at a news conference on a separate matter.
Oxford defines a parable as a simple story to illustrate a moral lesson.
There have been consequences for the Bakers: Mr. Baker has lost his job and his wife’s acting career has been highlighted in news coverage. The universal condemnation of what happened at Beaver Creek surely can’t be comfortable for the pair: The incident has been covered by The Globe and Mail and most national media, and the story has also reached the digital pages of the Guardian in London, the Washington Post, Bloomberg news service and Fortune magazine.
On the other hand, as Mr. Milstead reports, Mr. Baker will continue to make millions from his Great Canadian Gaming stock options, despite his resignation. He stands to receive more than $28-million in cash from payments for his stock and share options when the purchase of Great Canadian Gaming closes later this year.
This is the weekly Western Canada newsletter written by B.C. Editor Wendy Cox and Alberta Bureau Chief James Keller. If you’re reading this on the web, or it was forwarded to you from someone else, you can sign up for it and all Globe newsletters here. This is a new project and we’ll be experimenting as we go, so let us know what you think.