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, which is 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

Nic Hume and his fellow paramedic stopped to rescue the victim of an Oak Bay hit-and-run – a duck – at the end of their shift Thursday morning. (Nic Hume/Facebook)
Paramedics rescue unusual patient after Oak Bay hit-and-run

A female duck was rescued while a male one was deceased on scene

The government map (as of April 22) showing vaccine availability doesn’t have any Saanich Peninsula pharmacies listed, but the situation is fluid, and many readers have already registered. (Province of B.C. screenshot)
Vaccine availability a fluid situation for Saanich Peninsula

Government site may not show pharmacies, but registering still an option

This photo shows crews the fire at 7987 Galbraith Cres. that caused extensive damage and displaced six residents early Sunday morning. (Central Saanich Fire/Department Twitter)
Central Saanich rallies around couple who lost home of 25 years

A GoFundMe campaign is currently underway for Carla and Brian Wallace

An early morning fire along Cameron Street has left two cats dead and two tenants homeless. (Jane Skrypnek/News Staff)
Early morning fire guts Victoria house, leaves 2 cats dead

Victoria Fire Department called out shortly before 2 a.m.

FUN IN THE SUN
Soloman and seven-year-old Zev Nagler dig up a crab in the tidal flats in Witty's Lagoon Regional Park as part of Metchosin Biodiversity Day on Saturday. (James MacKenzie/Black Press)
Witty’s Beach stair access closed again

Repairs will be complete by summer, mayor says

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and United States President Joe Biden smile as they say farewell following a virtual joint statement in Ottawa, Tuesday, February 23, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Trudeau pledges to cut emissions by 40% to 45% by 2030, short of U.S. goal

Trudeau announced target during a virtual climate summit convened by U.S. President Joe Biden

(Black Press Media file photo)
POLL: Have rising prices caused you to give up hope of buying a home?

Do you have a spare 50 grand or so kicking around (have… Continue reading

Anyone with information on any of these individuals is asked to call 1-800-222-TIPS (8477) or visit the website victoriacrimestoppers.ca for more information.
Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers wanted list for the week of April 20

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

B.C.’s public health restrictions on non-essential travel are reinforced by orders effective April 23, 2021 to stay within your own regional health authority except for essential travel such as work and medical appointmens. (B.C. government)
B.C.’s COVID-19 non-essential travel ban takes effect, $575 fines approved

Checks on highways, ferries between Lower Mainland, Vancouver Island, Interior

A plan flew over the Lower Mainland with a sign expressing some Canucks fans’ discontent with the team’s general manager. (Niqhil Velji - Twitter Screenshot)
#FireBenning movement gets off the ground

Canucks fans raise enough money to fly banner over Metro Vancouver asking for team GM to be canned

The freed osprey keeps a wary eye on its rescuers after being deposited on its nest. (Photo credit: Greg Hiltz)
Hydro crew in Ashcroft gets osprey rescue call-out they won’t soon forget

Bird was tangled in baling wire hanging from a hydro pole, necessitating a tricky rescue

Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General Mike Farnworth speaks to media at the Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Monday February 5, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. officials to announce travel restrictions today to limit COVID-19 spread

Mike Farnworth is expected to give details of what the government views as essential travel

A downed power line has sparked a brush fire along Yellow Point Road south of Nanaimo. (Cole Schisler/Black Press)
Vancouver Islanders warned of fire risk caused by dry conditions

As dry spell poised to end, officials warn of risks involved with backyard burning

Richard Desautel with supporters outside the courthouse in Nelson, B.C., in 2016. Photo: Bill Metcalfe
UPDATED: Sinixt, First Nation bordering Canada-U.S., can claim Indigenous rights, top court rules

The decision essentially reverses a 1956 declaration the Sinixt were extinct

Most Read