B.C. tourism industry decries premier’s inquiries to implement travel ban

British Columbia’s tourism industry says implementing an inter-provincial travel plan would decimate what’s left of the sector’s operators. 

B.C. Premier John Horgan says he is seeking legal advice on the feasibility of a travel ban between provinces. In a statement issued Friday evening, the B.C. Hotel Association said it is urging the government to pursue other options to limit the spread of COVID-19. 

“A ban on inter-provincial, non-essential travel not only goes against Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms, it would also further cripple a sector that is barely hanging on by a thread,” the tourism coalition said. 

The coalition says such a ban would be difficult to implement because “Canadians’ mobility rights are among the most cherished rights of citizenship that are fundamental to nationhood.”

Stringent safety measures

On Thursday, Horgan said he and other leaders would be speaking about the issue later in the day during a virtual, two-day cabinet retreat. 

Horgan said people have been calling for the ban for months in light of growing cases in other provinces like Quebec and Ontario, which have recently implemented strict measures to reduce transmission.

Meanwhile, B.C.’s COVID-19 numbers have been trending downwards. 

Some British Columbians worry that travel from other provinces with higher case counts of COVID-19 could increase cases here too. (Shawn Talbot Photography/Tourism Kelowna)

The tourism sector says the province shouldn’t encourage non-essential travel, however. It also maintains that it has implemented stringent safety measures to protect guests, employees and residents. 

An emergency room doctor from Whistler, B.C., joined the call for inter-provincial travel restrictions this week after seeing a “worrying” number of patients from Ontario and Quebec who had travelled west over the holidays.

Horgan also acknowledged that revelations about a half-dozen Canadian politicians who disobeyed restrictions and travelled during their time off this winter “led to a firestorm of frustration and anger” that helped reignite the ban debate.

Ban would ‘heighten unnecessary fears’

The tourism industry says travel isn’t the main culprit in the spread of COVID-19. 

“A travel ban would further heighten the unnecessary fears, misperceptions and growing resentment by B.C. residents toward visitors as a result of actions aimed at our industry,” Vivek Sharma, chair of the Tourism Industry Association of B.C. said in a written statement.

“There should be no reason why Canadians cannot continue to travel to B.C. if they are tested, know and follow the rules, as well as practice health and safety protocols outlined by the PHO and implemented by all businesses.”

However, health authorities like Fraser Health have used real-world examples of how travellers can spread the virus from their destination to multiple locations back home. 

The B.C. Centre for Disease Control has also noted dozens of flights between provinces with possible COVID-19 exposures. 

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