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B.C. premier says changes to U.S. cruise ship rules remain temporary

Last Updated Jun 11, 2021 at 6:28 pm EDT

VICTORIA — British Columbia’s premier says legislation proposed in the United States that would scrap a long-standing requirement for American cruise ships to dock at a foreign port between domestic stops doesn’t change the fact people want to visit B.C.

John Horgan says the “machinations of U.S. politics” on a given day don’t change the draw for people to travel up B.C.’s coast and he doesn’t believe there’s anything the provincial government can do about decisions made in the U.S. Senate.

Horgan told a news conference that he’s passionate about making sure B.C. can welcome visitors once pandemic-related travel restrictions are lifted, but he doesn’t “regret not yelling louder at people who would not have been listening.”

Utah Sen. Mike Lee has introduced three bills to repeal and reform the 135-year-old Passenger Vessel Services Act, saying in a statement this week that it’s an “outdated, protectionist law” that benefits Canada and harms American jobs.

International cruise ships are banned in Canadian waters until the end of February due to the pandemic and the U.S. House of Representatives passed legislation last month that allows the ships to bypass B.C. ports until that restriction is lifted.

Horgan says he spoke Thursday with Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski, who was behind the legislation, and she assured him the law only applied until Canada lifts its restrictions, while Lee’s proposed changes would not be temporary. 

“We’re in a global pandemic. The United States, on a good day, is difficult to a govern,” Horgan said Friday. “To suggest that somehow I could have thrown myself in front of this bus and stopped it is the height of hubris in my mind.” 

Transport Canada stood by the cruise ship ban at the time Murkowski’s legislation passed last month, saying it would reassess measures as the pandemic evolves.

Representatives with the department were not immediately available to respond on Friday to a request for comment on the latest changes proposed by Lee.

Horgan says about 1.7 million people came in on cruise ships every year to Vancouver and Victoria. 

The Greater Victoria Harbour Authority has said the cruise industry has a $2.7-billion economic impact on the province. 

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 11, 2021.

The Canadian Press

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