B.C. is attracting winter visitors from other provinces, but Premier John Horgan is skeptical that a Maritime-style travel ban is either practical or legal for the province.
The issue of inter-provincial travel was discussed at last week’s conference call with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and other premiers, particularly as Ontario and Quebec grapple with sharply rising coronavirus cases, Horgan said Thursday. He noted that Canadians have a constitutional right to travel within the country, and the government is seeking legal advice on what, if any, options they have.
“On the surface it would seem an easy thing to do, to just tell people not to come here,” Horgan told reporters from the legislature Jan. 14. “That’s not part and parcel of who we are as Canadians. Other premiers have expressed a similar view. We want people to stay home, stay in place until we get through this. I’ve appealed to other provincial premiers to make the same case, and they’re doing that. But despite that, British Columbians, Canadians are free to travel within the borders of Canada.”
In addition to the legal issues, B.C. is far larger and has longer land borders than the Atlantic provinces that unilaterally declared themselves closed to visitors to the rest of Canada early in the coronavirus pandemic.
“The Maritimes population is not as large as that of British Columbia,” Horgan said. ‘There’s only a few ways in and out, and it’s easier to manage than it would be here in B.C.”
Horgan was asked about a doctor in Whistler who raised concern about the number of out-of-province visitors who were coming to the resort community’s medical clinic. He said the problem is occurring at many places in B.C. where tourists come from other parts of Canada, and the government will consider legal advice at a cabinet retreat this week.
“I want to put this either to rest, so that British Columbians understand that we cannot do that, and we’re not going to do that, or there is a way to do it and we’re going to work with other provinces to achieve it,” Horgan said.