A bill that would allow U.S. cruise ships to temporarily bypass Canadian ports could have a “devastating impact” on the B.C. tourism industry, the CEO of the Greater Victoria Harbour Authority said Friday.
The industry brings in $130 million a year to the Victoria economy alone, Ian Robertson told Global News.
“Cruise tourism to British Columbia is significant, it’s worth over $2.7 billion a year to the Vancouver, Victoria, Prince Rupert, Nanaimo economy,” Robertson said.
On May 13, the U.S. senate approved a bill, first brought forward by Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, that would allow U.S. ships to bypass Canadian ports for as long as the borders are closed. To become law, this bill must still pass in the US House of Representatives and then be signed by President Joe Biden.
The B.C. Ministry of Tourism, Arts, Culture and Sport said in a statement that cruise ships wishing to resume operations to Alaska must first follow a return-to-sail program overseen by the CDC but there is concern that this move could be a huge blow to the B.C. economy.
Ottawa recently extended its cruise ship ban until 2022.
“I’ve read the legislation, it is very clear, it states that as long as the Canada U.S. border is closed, this waiver (would be) in effect,” Robertson said.
“We’re pushing for both the provincial and federal government for a plan to open up the marine and land borders and I think that the longer we as a country takes to make these kinds of decisions, just adds fuel to this situation.”
“We need a plan. Whether it’s cruise tourism or tourism in general, you need a plan to open up and we’re not saying it’s now, but how?”
The Ministry said B.C. Premier John Horgan has reached out to meet with Alaskan senators in the coming weeks.
“As expected, the legislation is clear that the changes would be automatically rescinded when Canadian ports are reopened to cruise ships,” the ministry said.
“This means that as soon as Canadian ports are ready to welcome cruise ships again, they will be required by U.S. law to stop here on their way to Alaska, even if the current bill becomes law.”