Alaska is hoping to salvage the 2021 cruise ship season but at the expense of B.C.
The state wants to pass a new bill allowing ships to sail directly from Seattle to Alaska, without stopping at a B.C. port.
Ottawa recently extended its cruise ship ban until 2022, which could potentially be another huge blow for B.C.’s tourism sector.
Cruise vessels carrying more than 100 people will not be allowed to enter Canadian waters until Feb. 28, 2022.
The cruise industry pumps millions into the B.C. economy.
Ian Robertson, CEO of the Greater Victoria Harbour Authority, said previously the cruise industry accounts for about $130 million a year in the Victoria region alone and employs about 800 people.
B.C. is the hub of cruise travel in Canada, making up about 50 per cent of the country’s cruise traffic, according to a report from Destination BC.
The BC Liberals have raised concerns if this legislation is introduced in the U.S., there is no guarantee it would be reversed once cruise ships are allowed back in B.C.’s waters next year.
The legislation has a provision to only allow for excluding a Canadian port before Feb. 28, 2022, when the restriction of cruise ships is set to lift in Canada.
“If (Premier) John Horgan continues to remain silent on the issue, we risk permanently losing hundreds of millions of dollars in cruise ship tourism revenue, plus the hundreds of B.C. businesses who rely on cruise ship traffic,” Opposition critic for tourism, arts, and culture Teresa Wat said in a release.
Horgan was asked about the issue Wednesday, and said his government is confident that Ottawa will advocate against the legislation.
“I’m fairly confident that the relationships that we’ve had with the United States will endure, in fact, grow stronger, as I know it has with Washington State,” Horgan said.
“I’ll certainly be reaching out to the Alaska governor’s office to just read and reaffirm and reinforce that we have a number of issues in common.
“I’m confident that this blip along the way is a result of frustration, quite frankly, by Alaska, that that we’re not having ships stopping in Canadian ports for very good reasons. And I think overwhelmingly British Columbians support that position.”
Horgan also announced on Wednesday that the province plans to hire 1,400 out-of-work tourism and hospitality workers to assist with non-clinical staff work at mass-vaccination clinics.
The B.C. government will backstop some salaries for more than 1,400 tourism and hospitality workers being hired to work at COVID-19 mass-vaccination clinics.