Every year the cruise ship industry creates hundreds of jobs in Victoria. Don Denton/VICTORIA NEWS

Every year the cruise ship industry creates hundreds of jobs in Victoria. Don Denton/VICTORIA NEWS

COVID-19: B.C. fears Alaska bid to have cruise ships skip Canadian stops

Victoria, Prince Rupert, Vancouver tourism risks losing out

Alaska’s effort to allow international cruise ships to bypass B.C. ports on the way from Seattle to Ketchikan has B.C. worried about losing its main cruise tourism, even after international travel emerges from the COVID-19 pandemic.

With all adults now able to get COVID-19 vaccines in her state, Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski is attempting to save her state’s 2021 cruise ship season with a bill to suspend 19th century U.S. legislation requiring foreign-flagged passenger vessels to stop in another country between American ports. Her bill is in response to Canada’s decision to ban cruise ships until March 2022, or until the Canadian government allows them to dock.

Opposition critics called on B.C. Premier John Horgan Tuesday to say what his government will do to save the cruise ship industry in B.C. from losing its core business, led by European cruise lines.

“Tourism operators are hanging on by their fingernails already and desperately looking forward to better days ahead,” Abbotsford West B.C. Liberal MLA Mike de Jong told the B.C. legislature March 23. “Those better days are now facing an entirely new challenge. What assurance has the Premier received from Alaska – Sen. Lisa Murkowski, who’s sponsoring the legislation in Congress – that rule changes allowing cruise ships to entirely bypass B.C. ports will not become permanent?”

Tourism Minister Melanie Mark said the issue is in the hands of the federal government, and the province is working with Ottawa on the COVID-19 vaccine rollout and reopening borders.

“The member opposite knows full well that they have made the decision about the cruise ships,” Mark said. “The premier and our government will do the advocacy with the federal government to advocate that the borders are open. We are on the best coast. We’re on the west coast.”

B.C. Liberal jobs critic Todd Stone said the B.C. cruise ship industry employed 20,000 people before the pandemic, and a large cruise ship stopping in Vancouver represents $3 million in economic activity.

Murkowski’s bill calls on the U.S. government to temporarily “alleviate” the provision of the Passenger Vessel Services Act requiring a stop in B.C. for the popular Alaska cruises. It was passed in 1886 to protect U.S. shipping interests from foreign competition.

“Canada’s recent decision to prohibit Alaska-bound cruise ships from operating in Canadian waters creates legal hurdles that will hamstring the Alaska cruise season, creating additional economic strain on Alaska’s entire economy, especially in our southeast communities,” Murkowski said in a statement announcing the legislation. It follows a letter she wrote to to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in February, urging Canada to work with Alaska to preserve the industry.

RELATED: ‘Welcome to Victoria’ visitor garden a casualty of COVID-19

RELATED: B.C. harbours see thousands of visitors abruptly stopped


@tomfletcherbc
tfletcher@blackpress.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

BC legislatureCoronavirus

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

COVID-19 numbers continue to rise in the Kootenays. Illustration: BC Centre for Disease Control
Highest weekly number of new COVID-19 cases in 2021 for Nelson

The Nelson local health area had 13 new cases in early April

ANKORS held a small demonstration outside Nelson City Hall and the courthouse Wednesday to mark the five-year anniversary of the province declaring the toxic drug supply crisis. Photo: Tyler Harper
‘We’re all supposed to take care of each other’: 5 years of toxic drug supply crisis marked in Nelson

Over 7,000 people have died in B.C. since the crisis was announced in 2016

An Interior Health nurse administers Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccines to seniors and care aids in Kelowna on Tuesday, March 16, 2021. (Phil McLachlan/Kelowna Capital News)
105 new COVID-19 cases in Interior Health

Just over 8,000 new vaccine doses administered in the region for a total of 158,000 to date

School District 8 says a COVID-19 exposure has occurred at Nelson’s Rosemont Elementary. Photo: School District 8
Class at Nelson’s Rosemont Elementary in isolation after COVID-19 exposure

It’s not clear if any students or teachers were infected

Commercial trucks head south towards the Pacific Highway border crossing Wednesday (April 14, 2021). The union representing Canadian border officers wants its members to be included on the frontline priority list for the COVID-19 vaccine. (Aaron Hinks photo)
CBSA officers’ union calls for vaccine priority in B.C.

Border officers at ports including South Surrey’s Pacific Highway should ‘not be left behind’

Demonstrators at the legislature on April 14 called on the province to decriminalize drug possession and provide widespread access to regulated safe supply across B.C. (Jake Romphf/News Staff)
Rally calls for decriminalization, safe supply on 5th anniversay of overdose emergency declaration

From 2016 to the end of February, 7,072 British Columbians died due to overdose

(Government of Canada)
Liberal MP caught stark naked during House of Commons video conference

William Amos, in Quebec, appeared on the screens of his fellow members of Parliament completely naked

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates B.C.’s COVID-19 situation at the B.C. legislature, Feb. 1, 2020. (B.C. government)
B.C.’s COVID-19 case count jumps to 1,168 Wednesday, nearly 400 in hospital

Now 120 coronavirus patients in intensive care, six more deaths

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Moss covered branches are seen in the Avatar Old Growth Forest near Port Renfrew on Vancouver Island, B.C. Thursday, Sept. 29, 2011. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. blockades aimed at protecting old-growth forests reveal First Nation split

Two Pacheedaht chiefs say they’re ‘concerned about the increasing polarization over forestry activities’ in the territory

Richmond RCMP Chief Superintendent Will Ng said, in March, the force received a stand-out number of seven reports of incidents that appeared to have “racial undertones.” (Phil McLachlan/Capital News)
‘Racially motivated’ incidents on the rise in B.C’s 4th largest city: police

Three incidents in Richmond are currently being invested as hate crimes, says RCMP Chief Superintendent Will Ng

A still from the video taken of a violent arrest on May 30, 2020 in downtown Kelowna. (File)
Kelowna Mountie charged with assault for caught-on-camera violent arrest

Const. Siggy Pietrzak was filmed punching a suspected impaired driver at least 10 times during an arrest

A screenshot from a Nuu-chah-nulth healing song and performance created in collaboration between Hjalmer Wenstob and Timmy Masso. (Screenshot from YouTube)
VIDEO: Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation brothers produce COVID-19 healing song

Hjalmer Wenstob and Timmy Masso share dance and inspiration.

Most Read