The federal government is close to making a decision to delay the cruise ship season, a move that could hurt the tourist economy on both coasts but may be necessary to protect Canadians from the spread of COVID-19, according to senior government officials.
The sources told The Globe that officials from Transport Canada are holding talks with managers of ports and the cruise ship industry to discuss the options.
They said the final decision on whether to delay the season will be made on the advice of public health officials. The Globe is not identifying the officials because they were not authorized to discuss plans underway by the government.
One official said the government can use the Quarantine Act to ban cruise ships as a health precaution or to use regulations to bar the tourist vessels from Canadian ports for a set period of time.
Amy Butcher, director of communications for Transport Minister Marc Garneau, said “the government is looking at all options” when asked if the cruise ship season could be delayed.
Foreign Affairs Minister Francois Philippe Champagne told reporters Wednesday that Mr. Garneau is looking with the special cabinet committee on COVID-19 regarding measures to ensure the health and safety of Canadians ahead of the cruise season the cruise ship season.
Mr. Champagne also said that Canada is looking at taking measures in co-ordination with U.S. authorities because the cruises come from south of the border.
When asked Wednesday whether his government would suspend the arrival of cruise ships into Canada, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau would only say that it bases decisions on ensuring the health and safety of Canadians.
“We are looking at different measures including cruise ships,” Mr. Trudeau said in French. “The season is going to start soon and we have to think about how we are going to protect the Canadians who could take these cruise ships.”
On Monday, British Columbia’s Chief Public Health Officer, Dr. Bonnie Henry, recommended that Ottawa delay the start of the cruise ship season.
“It is my belief that we should be delaying our cruise season until we are in a safer place internationally," she told reporters.
“We know that this will impact businesses here in Victoria; the tourist industry is being hard-hit by this. But my primary concern is the health and safety in B.C., and I have grave concerns about cruises right now.”
- With files from Justine Hunter in Victoria
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