Ken­ney pushes for a plan

Calgary Herald - - FRONT PAGE - AMANDA STEPHEN­SON astephen­son@post­media.com Twit­ter: @Aman­damsteph

COVID -19 travel re­stric­tions such as bor­der clo­sures and quar­an­tine re­quire­ments have been dev­as­tat­ing for Al­berta’s econ­omy and can­not con­tinue in­def­i­nitely, Premier Ja­son Ken­ney said Tues­day.

Ken­ney told re­porters that while it is not yet time to re­sume travel, he is push­ing his pro­vin­cial coun­ter­parts and the fed­eral gov­ern­ment to work to­gether to come up with a plan that will al­low for the re­sump­tion of in­ter­na­tional and do­mes­tic travel sooner rather than later.

“Good­ness knows, we’re not go­ing to get our econ­omy back to full throt­tle — par­tic­u­larly with Al­berta’s huge tourism in­dus­try — un­til we can safely travel again,” Ken­ney said. “We need to be­gin de­vel­op­ing strate­gies to do that safely, and we should be look­ing at the ex­pe­ri­ence of other ju­ris­dic­tions that have very large tourism in­dus­tries, like Ice­land, Aus­tria and New Zealand.”

Cur­rently, an of­fi­cial global travel ad­vi­sory warns Cana­di­ans against travel out­side of the coun­try. All Cana­di­ans re­turn­ing from abroad, as well as all in­ter­na­tional trav­ellers en­ter­ing the coun­try, are re­quired by fed­eral or­der to self-iso­late for 14 days to guard against the spread of COVID-19.

The U.s.-canada bor­der re­mains closed to all but essen­tial travel, and Reuters re­ported Tues­day that the two coun­tries are set to ex­tend that bor­der clo­sure un­til the end of July.

In ad­di­tion, a num­ber of Cana­dian prov­inces have rules in place that es­sen­tially pro­hibit non-essen­tial do­mes­tic travel. In Al­berta, travel out­side the prov­ince is still not rec­om­mended but there are no rules or en­force­ment stop­ping some­one from head­ing to B.C. or Saskatchew­an or vice versa.

Other prov­inces, how­ever, are stricter — Man­i­toba, for ex­am­ple, re­quires all vis­i­tors from other prov­inces to self-iso­late for 14 days upon ar­rival. Prince Ed­ward Is­land re­mains closed to non-res­i­dents for the fore­see­able fu­ture, while the gov­ern­ment of New­found­land has ex­panded the power of po­lice to al­low of­fi­cers to de­tain and take peo­ple to the bor­der if they’re not sup­posed to be in the prov­ince.

En­try into the North­west Ter­ri­to­ries, Nu­navut and Yukon is also re­stricted at this time.

Ken­ney said the is­sue of do­mes­tic travel re­stric­tions has been raised “con­stantly” dur­ing weekly pre­miers’ meet­ings, as has the ques­tion of the fed­er­ally man­dated 14-day quar­an­tine for in­com­ing in­ter­na­tional trav­ellers. He said other coun­tries that are de­pen­dent on tourism have be­gun to loosen travel re­stric­tions, find­ing other ways to pre­vent travel-re­lated spread of the virus. Ice­land, for ex­am­ple, is now of­fer­ing COVID-19 tests to all in­com­ing air trav­ellers. Those who test neg­a­tive are able to skip the pre­vi­ously re­quired two-week quar­an­tine.

“There are a lot of dif­fer­ent ways of do­ing this, and we’re not ready to do it yet, for sure, but we can’t just sus­pend global air travel for the next year,” Ken­ney said. “That would con­tinue to mas­sively dam­age liveli­hoods and im­pact peo­ple’s lives.”

The Cana­dian travel and tourism in­dus­try has been call­ing for “clear di­rec­tion” on the loos­en­ing of travel re­stric­tions, ideally be­fore the end of the sum­mer sea­son. In a let­ter to Ken­ney signed by more than 25 CEOS of ho­tels, air­lines and tourism op­er­a­tors, the travel in­dus­try says that many Cana­di­ans are con­tem­plat­ing travel now that economies are be­gin­ning to re­open but are be­ing met with mixed mes­sag­ing.

“Prov­inces vary on whether to al­low out-of-prov­ince vis­i­tors, on manda­tory self-iso­la­tion for vis­i­tors, and other rules that are col­lec­tively re­sult­ing in a con­fused and re­luc­tant pub­lic,” the let­ter reads. “There must be a way to stream­line our ap­proach and en­cour­age safe travel.”

For the air­line in­dus­try, the re­moval of the 14-day quar­an­tine for in­ter­na­tional ar­rivals must be first pri­or­ity, said Peter Cerda, re­gional vice-pres­i­dent with the In­ter­na­tional Air Trans­port As­so­ci­a­tion, which rep­re­sents 290 air­lines around the world in­clud­ing Air Canada, Air Transat and Westjet.

“We as an in­dus­try are quite con­cerned about some of these gov­ern­ments, the Cana­dian gov­ern­ment be­ing one of them, that still have these quar­an­tines in place,” Cerda said in an in­ter­view. “Peo­ple are look­ing for­ward to get­ting out of their homes, out of their com­mu­ni­ties. But the last thing they want to do is go some­where know­ing they will have to self-iso­late for 14 days at a time. That’s re­ally go­ing to de­ter peo­ple from get­ting on an air­plane.”

Cerda said the avi­a­tion in­dus­try is ready to re­open with strict pro­to­cols in place to pre­vent the spread of the virus — ev­ery­thing from en­hanced san­i­ti­za­tion pro­ce­dures to manda­tory mask-wear­ing and tem­per­a­ture checks. He said rapid test­ing, once it is avail­able, should also be de­ployed at air­ports to give trav­ellers peace of mind.

IATA es­ti­mates that rev­enues gen­er­ated by air­lines in the Cana­dian mar­ket will fall by $14.6 bil­lion (43.2 per cent) in 2020 due to COVID-19, putting at risk nearly 250,000 Cana­dian jobs and $25.4 bil­lion of Canada’s GDP. Cerda said if the in­dus­try is to re­cover from this mas­sive hit, it must be able to cap­i­tal­ize on the short but lu­cra­tive sum­mer travel sea­son.

“The gov­ern­ment needs to take down the im­ped­i­ments it is putting on the in­dus­try,” Cerda said. “If they don’t do this, the in­dus­try is go­ing to be hand­cuffed, Cana­di­ans are not go­ing to be able to travel freely, and you’re not go­ing to have in­ter­na­tional tourists com­ing in who can help restart the econ­omy of the coun­try.”


Parked Westjet Boe­ing 737 air­craft fill an un­used run­way at the Cal­gary In­ter­na­tional Air­port. The world­wide COVID-19 pan­demic has kept peo­ple from trav­el­ling and dec­i­mated the air­line in­dus­try, lead­ing a call to ease re­stric­tions be­fore the sum­mer tourist sea­son is lost com­pletely.

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