After being caught off guard by the swift passage of a U.S. bill allowing cruise ships to bypass B.C. during the COVID-19 pandemic, Premier John Horgan says he’s doing all he can to urge the Justin Trudeau government to welcome Americans back as soon as possible.
Horgan said Friday he spoke with Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski this week and was assured that the bill she sponsored has a “sunset” clause that will bring back the requirement for a stop in Victoria, Vancouver or Prince Rupert when passenger vessels sail from Seattle or other U.S. ports to Alaska.
Asked about another American political bid this week to make the change permanent, Horgan said he can’t control what U.S. politicians do, but B.C.’s appeal to visitors is enough to keep it in the cruise ship market.
“I am confident that Senator Murkowski wants to make sure we continue to have a positive working relationship,” Horgan told reporters in Victoria June 11. “And the people who are travelling to Alaska have to travel by B.C. Why in the world wouldn’t they want to stop? That is part of the attraction. That is what makes cruising an important part of tourism internationally.”
The American cruise ship moves were prompted by a decision by the Justin Trudeau government to declare Canada off limits to cruise ships until March 2022. Alaska politicians led the effort to save their 2021 cruise ship season by amending an 1880s law requiring a foreign stop for foreign-built passenger vessels between U.S. ports. The law was passed to protect U.S. shipbuilding interests in the age of sail and steamships, and a Utah senator has presented another bill to do away with it permanently.
Horgan said the B.C. government is doing all it can to prepare tourist promotion for B.C.’s return to post-pandemic conditions, but it can’t control international borders. Premiers are meeting on the U.S. border issue next week and Horgan said he expects an update on Thursday when Trudeau meets with them.
Canada’s vaccination effort is gaining ground quickly after the U.S. has begun allowing crowds at sporting events and returning to a post-COVID-19 existence.