BC Liberals call on province to ensure ‘questions are asked’ of Albertans coming to B.C.

Click to play video: 'Albertans face no travel restrictions in B.C., despite provincial orders' Albertans face no travel restrictions in B.C., despite provincial orders
B.C. provincial health orders limit non-essential travel between regions, but no such restrictions exist on the Alberta boundary. Residents on both sides of the Rockies rely on interprovincial travel for work, medical appointments, and any number of potentially essential reasons. But no one is checking. Richard Zussman reports. – May 6, 2021

BC Liberal Interim Leader Shirley Bond says travellers across the B.C.-Alberta border should be stopped and asked whether they are travelling for non-essential reasons as the COVID-19 pandemic continues.

There is currently a ban for non-essential travel across large health regions in British Columbia, but no formal ban for non-essential travel across the provincial border.

“I don’t think it’s unreasonable — and people have been raising this with us — that if you are travelling from Alberta, that questions are asked,” Bond said.

“Perhaps that is a place where we should be asking if people are travelling for essential reasons. If you are going to have checkpoints in other areas of B.C., one would assume there would be an opportunity to ask questions at the B.C.-Alberta border as well.”

Click to play video: 'COVID-19 vaccination campaign underway at hard-hit Alberta oilsands' COVID-19 vaccination campaign underway at hard-hit Alberta oilsands
COVID-19 vaccination campaign underway at hard-hit Alberta oilsands – May 6, 2021

The B.C. government has set up signs along the border asking Alberta drivers to turn back if their travel is for non-essential reasons.

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Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth has said provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry has not suggested that banning Albertans from coming to B.C. is necessary.

The province has been advised that legally restricting travel from province to province would be close to impossible.

“There are a lot of issues at play. It’s complex — some of them are constitutional,” Farnworth said.

“But more importantly, if you have someone asking questions at the border, it really needs to be people with authority, i.e. police. People respect the police, they know the police and they know they have the legal authority.”

Click to play video: 'COVID-19 travel restriction roadblocks begin' COVID-19 travel restriction roadblocks begin
COVID-19 travel restriction roadblocks begin – May 6, 2021

Mayors in communities near the Alberta-B.C. border have expressed concern that additional checks would be labour-intensive and slow down the essential travel taking place.

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Valemount Mayor Owen Torgerson said recreational travel has dropped substantially in his community over the past few weeks, and “99.9 per cent” of Albertans in Valemount are there for work and other essential reasons.

Torgerson said he understands people are frustrated when they see what looks like recreational travel but it doesn’t tell the entire story.

“If you are pulling a motor home, you may be a worker relocating,” he said.

Read more: Alberta ‘respects’ B.C.’s decision to restrict travel as legalities of measure questioned

According to the province, inter-provincial travel contributes to only one per cent of COVID-19 cases.

Communities like Sparwood count on Albertans coming to work, especially at Teck Resources. But the guidance from Mayor David Wilks is similar to the other mayors: if it’s not essential, don’t travel.

“Certainly from the position of non-essential travel, it’s concerning. With the May long weekend, for those coming for recreation, we would ask you to reconsider,” Wilks said.

The BC Liberals have been pushing the province to provide more support for closed businesses.

Bond said she understands why, in some of these communities, it would be hard to turn Albertans away.

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“It is a very difficult circumstance they are in. Many of them rely on visitors from Alberta to survive. When you have an inability to get the kind of support you need to keep your business running, it is a very difficult dilemma.”

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