Insiders hope vaccine card is just the ticket Manitoba needs to help travel, entertainment take off

Leaders in Manitoba's travel and entertainment sectors, which have been hit hard by the global pandemic, are hoping the announcement of a vaccine card may help their industries bounce back in the coming months.

Industry leaders excited about opportunity, but civil liberties group has concerns

Manitobans anxious to travel got some good news Tuesday, as the province announced the creation of a vaccine card, the benefits of which will include the elimination of self-isolation for travellers returning to the province from within Canada. (Jonathan Hayward/The Canadian Press)

To say Max Johnson is eager to hear a boarding call is truly an understatement. 

The tourism consultant and former travel agency owner has been perched on his couch for 15 months. His business has dried up and he says he's bored beyond belief. 

"I don't think [there] are words really to express it. I've been here for a long time and my life is travelling and I am anxiously, eagerly awaiting to get on a plane," Johnson said.

The province announced Tuesday it would provide an immunization card to residents two weeks after they've received a second dose of COVID-19 vaccine. That means Manitobans will be allowed to travel within the country without being required to self-isolate for two weeks upon return. 

Johnson has seen his colleagues in the travel agency business forced to lay off staff, as revenues plummet.

"I think that as we move forward, proof of vaccination is the only way that we are going to be able to open not only our local society, but certainly a mobility inter-provincially and internationally. And [to] see Manitoba ahead of the curve was a surprise, I will admit, but an absolute delight," Johnston told CBC News. 

Tourism consultant Max Johnson can't wait to get his vaccination card punched, but warns to make them truly effective governments will have to co-ordinate. (Submitted by TTJ Tourism)

Johnson believes a true vaccination passport will take massive co-ordination between provinces and the federal government, as well as between countries.

It's a sentiment echoed by the Winnipeg Airports Authority.

James Richardson International Airport has been a ghost terminal for months and the WAA welcomes the removal of quarantine restrictions, but a passport that has credibility will take some time, says its vice president of communications and government relations.

"You need to have a system that works for all of Canada and then a system that works internationally. What we can't do is have a bunch of different piecemeal approaches to this — what we really need to have is a co-ordinated approach as a country, and Manitoba needs to fit into that," said the WAA spokesperson Tyler MacAfee.

Premier Brian Pallister says vaccination cards could pave a way to open more events to the public and announcements are coming soon. (Fernand Detillieux/Radio-Canada)

All the world's indeed a stage

Premier Brian Pallister alluded Tuesday to more freedom that may come with proof of vaccination: events such as professional baseball, football and concerts. 

"The sooner that we can get as many people as possible double-vaccinated, sooner we can get some of these things back into our lives like group events," Pallister said. 

Booking tickets to see a big concert at Bell MTS Place might take a little more planning. 

A spokesperson for True North Sports and Entertainment told CBC News it was "too soon for us to comment on how this may or may not integrate into our operations."

Wade Miller was faster down field on where the news would take the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.

The president and CEO of the football club says QR-coded vaccine cards available on smart phones could be integrated into entry to Investors Group field, potentially rushing the team toward a mid-summer or August kickoff with fans in the stands.

"We have to see how it works with the technology we use for ticketing right now. But, you know, the ability for somebody to be able to just pull that up on their phone, well, I think is going to be helpful," Miller said. 

Wade Miller, president and CEO of the Winnipeg Football Club, says a vaccine passport could help the team play before fans this summer. (CBC)

The Bomber president says he sees the sports industry in the U.S. opening venues up to fans and indications from western Canadian political leaders about the same possibility.

"You see in Alberta where, you know, their premier has come out and said we're going to be full stadiums in August and and some capacity in July. And the same thing in Saskatchewan. And, you know, we look for that opportunity in Manitoba when the time's right," Miller said. 

One of the cautions not to get too exuberant about vaccine passports comes from the Canadian Civil Liberties Association.

Cara Zwibel of the association says there are some who would like to be vaccinated but cannot, either because current supply issues or for medical reasons.

"We're a bit concerned about this idea that certain rights are going to be granted to people who've been fully vaccinated when not everyone who would like to be fully vaccinated can be," Zwibel said.

The CCLA acknowledges when it comes to self isolation and travel a vaccination status could help tailor restrictions, but has worries when it could affect the ability for people to go to a restaurant or grocery store or go to the movies.

For tourism consultant Max Johnson, he says he'd have a vaccine card tattooed to his arm if it meant he could get on a plane and back to work. 

With files from Karen Pauls


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