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B.C. mayors weigh in on possible interprovincial travel ban due to COVID-19

Last Updated Jan 21, 2021 at 10:34 pm PST

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Summary

Some mayors are not onboard with the B.C. premier's proposed ban on interprovincial travel amid the pandemic

Mayors of Kimberley and Cranbrook say they have concerns about potential ban on visitors to B.C.

Policing interprovincial travel ban among concerns

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – B.C. Premier John Horgan has said he is seeking legal advice on the feasibility of an interprovincial travel ban, but not all community leaders appear to be onboard with the idea.

In Cranbrook, that city’s mayor says he’s less concerned about Albertans bringing COVID-19 to B.C. than he is about how the province would actually police a ban on recreational travel.

“I have a couple thoughts on it, actually,” Mayor Lee Pratt says of the proposal. “I really don’t know how they can … enforce it. I mean, it’s a big border and there’s a lot of different ways to cross from Alberta into B.C. So I don’t know how they would man that enforcement part of it.”

Additionally, he says there are a number of Albertans who own homes and vacation properties on this side of the border.

“Some of them work in B.C. and vice versa — there’s a lot of residents of Cranbrook here, especially that work in Alberta at different sites,” he tells NEWS 1130.

Related video: B.C. looks into possibility of interprovincial travel ban

For Kimberley Mayor Don McCormick, the problem isn’t with Albertans coming into his East Kootenay community — it comes down to getting everyone to follow the rules.

“For the most part, what we have here is people just like us, who own property, they’re invested in the community, and they behave when they’re here. They wear their masks, they social distance. It’s the behaviour that’s a big deal, not where somebody’s from,” McCormick says of visitors from Wild Rose Country.

He estimates 20 per cent of the homes in Kimberley are owned by Albertans, and insists the current COVID-19 case numbers don’t justify a clamp down on non-essential, interprovincial travel.

“If you listen to some of the stories, they’re making Albertans sound like radical folks who come in here and just cause havoc and then go home,” McCormick explains. “These are residents, for all intents and purposes. These aren’t fly by night visitors that come in here, plunder, and then leave.”

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McCormick says every time the premier raises the idea, “it causes us great grief.” He tells NEWS 1130 he receives emails and phone calls from secondary homeowners in Alberta asking if it’s okay for them to go to Kimberley.

“It really stirs up dust,” he adds.

Pratt reiterates the number of COVID-19 cases in his region have been low and that visitors don’t seem to be a concern, generally.

“We’ve had a couple of cases and a couple of suspected cases. But in the big picture of things, we haven’t had a lot,” says Pratt. “I think the people in Cranbrook and the area, like Kimberley too, there’s a lot of skiers [who] come to Kimberley and a lot of homeowners up there too. I think that most of them, they practice the social distancing and it’s not like it’s a big party scene.”

He notes he hasn’t had any interaction with the province about this proposed travel ban. Pratt questions the legality around preventing Canadians from travelling between provinces.

“This is Canada. If we start restricting people to their homes or their cities, that’s not what Canada and the democracy here is all about. I don’t agree with it, personally, that’s for sure,” Pratt says.

In Revelstoke, on the other hand, Mayor Gary Sulz is supportive of a ban — with conditions.

He says only three of about 30 cases recorded late last year were tourists, but more out-of-province visitors have been linked to recent clusters.

“We have had groups of people come in from outside the province and have an outbreak at one of the restaurants. That restaurant had to close for a period of time. We had another restaurant that had the same sort of incident and now that restaurant is basically advertising locals-only,” he says.

“Let’s look at data and just look at how it is working. Definitely the members of my community, for the most part, are saying let’s stem the flow of tourists, so we can make sure that is not the issue.”

However, he wants any ban to be accompanied by aid from the feds and the province to help already struggling businesses survive.