Despite calls to stay away, many B.C. communities faced traffic coming off of BC Ferries over the Easter long weekend. (Photo submitted)

Vancouver Island leaders plead for stronger long weekend ferry restrictions

More than 30 officials back North Cowichan mayor’s letter asking B.C. to block non-essential travel

A group of more than 30 Vancouver Island leaders are asking the province to restrict long weekend ferry travel to essential traffic only during the COVID-19 pandemic.

On April 14, North Cowichan Mayor Al Siebring sent a letter – endorsed by 24 Island mayors, eight regional district chairs and Pacheedaht First Nation general manager Mike Conlin – to Public Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry explaining that while the messaging regarding non-essential travel has been clear, the travellers who ignored the orders over the Easter long weekend are a concern.

READ ALSO: ‘Full ferries’ only half-full, BC Ferries clarifies

Siebring acknowledged that, overall, ferry traffic was reduced compared to a normal long weekend. However, he explained that “compelling anecdotal evidence” shows many ferry passengers were mainland residents vacationing for the weekend – “blatantly ignoring directives to stay at home.”

He pointed out that ahead of the long weekend, elected officials across the coastal region begged travellers to stay away as many of the smaller Island communities don’t have the capacity for a spike in COVID-19 cases. Siebring noted that the “longer-than-normal lineups at retail outlets, liquor stores, and other establishments” over the weekend made it clear these requests were ignored.

READ ALSO: B.C. Ferries busy on long weekend, even during pandemic

He added that an influx of visitors also put a strain on some communities’ food supply chains as travellers shopped at local food stores “already dealing with depleted inventories.” This, Siebring explained, could deprive locals of necessities.

The spike in non-essential travel was also been alarming because of the region’s demographics which include high numbers of seniors, Siebring said. He added that ahead of the long weekend, it was clear that Island residents were following orders as on April 9 just 82 of the province’s 1,370 confirmed cases of COVID-19 were on the Island.

READ ALSO: Petition asking to restrict travel to Vancouver Island garners thousands of signatures

“All of those efforts will be for naught if we continue to allow a constant stream of recreational and non-essential travel from the Lower Mainland, which is the primary vortex of COVID-19 infections,” he wrote.

To ensure the upcoming summer long weekends don’t bring the same influx of travellers, Siebring asked Henry to order restricting passage on BC Ferries to “essential travel only” over long weekends – Thursday through Tuesday – during the pandemic.

As the next long weekend is about a month away, Siebring said there’s time to clearly define essential travel and implement an “appropriate and robust mechanism for enforcement.”

READ ALSO: POLL: Should BC Ferries be limited to essential traffic only?

“It is truly regrettable that we are forced to request these more stringent measures because a tiny minority of people simply refuse to heed your directives and our collective pleas for self-isolation,” he wrote.

Siebring pointed out that as he was unclear who has the authority to restrict ferry travel, his letter was copied to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Premier John Horgan, BC Ferries CEO Mark Collins and several ministers.

Saanich Mayor Fred Haynes, who endorsed the letter, said a response from the province is expected on April 16 during a weekly update for B.C. mayors and municipal leaders.


@devonscarlett
Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

devon.bidal@saanichnews.com

Coronavirus

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

Just Posted

Morning start: This is the fastest growing city in the Kootenays

Here is your Kootenays’ morning start for Monday, May 25

A second wave of COVID-19 is probable, if history tells us anything

B.C.’s top doctor says that what health officials have learned this round will guide response in future

Lock at Keenleyside Dam near Castlegar to open on May 23

The navigational lock will be open every day of the week from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m

Morning start: Rossland is named after this person

Here is your Kootenays’ morning start for Friday, May 22

Trudeau speaking to provinces, will seek 10 days of paid sick leave for all Canadians

Paid sick leave is key to keeping COVID-19 spread under control, prime minister says

Facing changes together: Your community, your journalists

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the world in ways that would have… Continue reading

B.C. residents can now reserve a provincial campsite for a stay starting June 1

Campsite reservations will only be available to British Columbians

Cullen commission into money laundering in British Columbia resumes today

Inquiry was called amid growing concern that illegal cash was helping fuel real estate, luxury car and gambling

Bike shops busier than ever, but owners worry about stock supply issues

Uptick in cyclists brings new challenges for shops

RCMP facing ‘systemic sustainability challenges’ due to provincial policing role

Provinces, territories and municipalities pay anywhere from 70 to 90 per cent of the cost of the RCMP’s services

One man dead after standoff with Chilliwack RCMP

The Independent Investigations Office of B.C. is investigating the RCMP’s role in the death

B.C. employers worry about safety, cash flow, second wave in COVID-19 restart

A survey found 75 per cent of businesses worry about attracting customers

Ex-BC Greens leader Andrew Weaver says province came close to early election

Disagreement centred on the LNG Canada project in northern B.C.

Most Read