Nova Scotia

Email suggesting N.S. about to open to rest of Canada sent in error

The president and CEO of Discover Halifax says he has no more idea what Premier Stephen McNeil will announce during a COVID-19 briefing on Friday than anyone else.

CEO of Discover Halifax says he doesn't know when such a change could happen in Nova Scotia

Premier Stephen McNeil is scheduled to hold a COVID-19 briefing on Friday. (Communications Nova Scotia)

The president and CEO of Discover Halifax says he has no more idea what Premier Stephen McNeil will announce during a COVID-19 briefing on Friday than anyone else.

On Thursday afternoon, an email was sent on behalf of Ross Jefferson to a Discover Halifax email list with the subject line, "Welcome back to Halifax, Canada!"

The email takes the form of a news release and says the provincial government has announced unrestricted travel for people throughout Canada coming here without being required to self-isolate for 14 days upon arrival. That rule currently only applies to people within the Atlantic provinces as part of the Atlantic bubble.

The email, however, leaves blank a space to link to a news release from the provincial government and doesn't say on what date the news was announced.

Multiple emails for multiple scenarios

In a telephone interview Thursday, Jefferson said the email was sent in error and neither he nor anyone else at Discover Halifax knows when the province will remove the requirement for travellers from outside Atlantic Canada to self-isolate for 14 days after getting here.

"We have multiple communications for multiple scenarios that we anticipate," he said.

"This was one that we released inadvertently. We have no additional knowledge of anything that will be announced or anything that is not already in the public domain."

Even as the Atlantic bubble was poised to launch at the beginning of the month, McNeil was talking about opening the province up to the rest of the country by late July.

His counterparts in Newfoundland and Labrador, New Brunswick and P.E.I. have been less enthusiastic about that idea recently, saying they don't think it should happen until at least sometime in August.

Tourism industry getting hammered

McNeil, meanwhile, has remained steadfast in his drive toward more loosening of restrictions, saying he would consult premiers in the other Atlantic provinces but ultimately do what he believes is in the best interest of Nova Scotia. As of Thursday, there is one known active case of COVID-19 in the province.

Jefferson said the Atlantic bubble has been helpful for the tourism industry, but occupancy rates in Halifax remain extremely low, hovering around 25 per cent. Although they're expecting that to begin to increase in the next month, he said tourism is the industry being hit the deepest and will likely be hit the longest by the economic effects of COVID-19.

Air travel to the province has been drastically reduced and the lucrative cruise ship season has been completely cancelled.

Current modelling suggests it will be well into 2022 or perhaps even 2023 before many in the sector can experience meaningful recovery, said Jefferson. The industry has asks before the provincial and federal governments in hopes of getting financial help to weather that storm, he said.

In Halifax alone, the tourism industry is worth $1.3 billion annually and employs about 34,000 people. As the pandemic was setting in on Nova Scotia, officials with the provincial tourism agency said they were bracing for a loss of at least $1 billion to the industry this year.

In an effort to promote people travelling within their respective provinces to spend money and support local operators, the governments of New Brunswick and P.E.I. have offered various types of tax incentives. McNeil, who has vocally pushed for Nova Scotians to get out and support the businesses in this province, has so far rejected calls to offer similar incentives.

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