B.C. Premier John Horgan says he is not going to apologize for allowing tourism operators on Haida Gwaii to reopen under Phase 3 of the pandemic recovery plan, only to close them again after an outbreak of COVID-19.
The province lifted a ban on non-essential travel within B.C. on June 24, but reinstated it in the popular tourist area on July 30 after 20 cases of the virus were reported. There were 26 cases as of Friday.
Lodges and tourism operators who had clients booked for the summer were forced to close and issue refunds.
This week, Premier John Horgan was asked at a news conference whether he would apologize to the operators after they lost millions in business in an already strained economy.
“A month ago, there were no cases in Haida Gwaii. Now, there are,” Horgan said Thursday.
He said he understands their concerns and “discussions will take place,” but public health and safety is the priority.
“I’m not going to be apologetic about that.”
Brian Clive, vice-president of sales with Queen Charlotte Lodge, told Global News that staff had been following public health protocols to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
“We haven’t fully comprehended what the premier was trying to do,” Clive said.
“We do know he has cloaked it in ‘trying to provide safety for the community of Haida Gwaii,’ which he and our company would agree on that. We went to great lengths to provide that very safety, that very distance that was required to keep the communities in Haida Gwaii 100-per-cent safe.”
Clive said the business wants to talk to the province about compensation after an “arbitrary” and “unfair” process.
“Our season is very expensive to set up and it’s very expensive to shut down,” he said. “And when your season is only five trips or three weeks, at the end of the day, you can imagine that, coupled with the cash flow issues with respect to refunds to our clients, it’s a massive hit.
“It’s one we will be able to sustain, but it will be years before we get back to step one, based on the current events.”
Officials have said it will be a few more weeks until they can determine if the outbreak is under control.View link »