The federal government is lifting the ban on cruise ships in Canadian waters earlier than originally planned.
Transport Minister Omar Alghabra announced on Wednesday that the prohibition of cruise ships, put in place because of the COVID-19 pandemic, will no longer be in effect as of Nov. 1 if operators are able to fully comply with public health requirements.
The change opens the doors for vessels to stop in Victoria and leave from Vancouver for the 2022 Alaska cruise season.
“As Canadians have done their part to reduce the spread of COVID-19, our government continues to work hard to safely restart our economy and build back better,” Alghabra said.
“We will welcome cruise ships — an important part of our tourism sector — back in Canadian waters for the 2022 season.”
The cruise ship industry, which contributes more than $4 billion to the national economy, has been asking Ottawa to provide clarity on when ships can return.
The sector also directly and indirectly generates approximately 30,000 jobs in the country.
But there are still concerns over legislation in the United States that, if passed, would allow cruise ships to bypass Canadian ports. Currently, legislation is in place on a temporary basis allowing ships to depart Seattle and head directly to Alaska.
“Our local economy has definitely taken a hit,” Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps said about cruise ships not stopping in her city. “But thanks to residents shopping local and supporting their friends’ and neighbours’ businesses, many businesses are still making it work.”
Said Alghabra: “We are very much interested in protecting the industry. We are committed to work with our friends in the United States to ensure we maintain business as usual. We are working with the administration, with congressmen and women, repeating the benefits cruise has stopping here.”
The federal government has not determined yet if cruise ship passengers must be vaccinated to enter Canada, and has said it will make the decision closer to ships returning.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has been consistent in saying that for now, the goal is to only allow fully vaccinated travellers into Canada once the border restrictions ease.
The Greater Victoria Harbour Authority says the announcement today gives cruise lines and ports in Canada the time needed to prepare for the full resumption of cruise.
Cruise contributes more than $130 million to the Greater Victoria economy alone and is responsible for more than 800 jobs locally.