Shomporko Online News Desk: The federal government is relaxing the cruise ship prohibition earlier than expected in Canadian waterways.
On Wednesday, Transport Minister Omar Alghabra said that the cruise ship ban, which was imposed in response to the COVID-19 outbreak, will be lifted as of Nov. 1 if operators are able to completely comply with public health regulations.
For the 2022 Alaska cruise season, the adjustment allows ships to stop in Victoria and depart from Vancouver.
“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 locally and supporting their friends’ and neighbors’ businesses, many businesses are still making it work.”
Said Alghabra: “We are very much interested in protecting the industry. We are committed to working 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 stopped here.”
The federal government has yet to decide whether cruise ship passengers must be vaccinated in order to enter Canada, and has stated that it will make that decision closer to the time when the ships return.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has stated repeatedly that, for the time being, the intention is to only allow fully vaccinated visitors into Canada once border restrictions are lifted.
The declaration today, according to the Greater Victoria Harbour Authority, allows cruise lines and ports in Canada the time they need to prepare for a full restart of cruise operations.
Cruise contributes more than $130 million to the Greater Victoria economy and employs over 800 people in the area.