Cruise ship visits to Canada now banned until February 2022
Transport Minister Omar Alghabra can rescind the order if pandemic conditions improve
A ban on cruise ships with more than 100 people coming to Canada will remain in place until February 2022, a federal government release said Thursday.
The temporary measures for cruise ships were scheduled to end on Feb. 28.
Minister of Transport Omar Alghabra announced the interim order, and also extended an order prohibiting pleasure craft in Canadian Arctic waters except for those used by residents of the region.
"Cruise vessels in Canadian waters pose a risk to our health-care systems. The government of Canada will continue to evaluate the situation and make changes as necessary to ensure the health and safety of all Canadians," the release said.
The government said it is focusing efforts on "the most pressing issues, including the vaccine rollout and new COVID-19 variants."
The release urged Canadians to avoid travel on cruise ships for now.
Essential passenger vessels, such as ferries and water taxis, should continue to follow local public health guidance and mitigation measures to reduce the spread of COVID-19 and prevent future outbreaks, the release said.
Alghabra can rescind the ban if the pandemic situation improves enough to allow the resumption of cruising.
Decision 'disappointing' but no surprise
Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil said the extended ban was disappointing, but not a surprise.
"Protecting the health and safety of our citizens is the top priority, especially as we continue to roll out the vaccine."
Mike Cochrane, the CEO of Port Charlottetown in Prince Edward Island, said he supports the ban extension to keep everyone safe.
However, another season without revenue will have "a big impact" not only for the port, but for P.E.I.'s entire tourism industry, he said.
"It's just another difficult year in 2021 that we'll have to ride through."
Need to restore confidence cited
Cochrane said all ports need to work together to restore confidence in cruising so that it can resume as soon as possible when conditions are safe. He is optimistic that will happen in 2022.
In New Brunswick, cruise ships account for 10 to 15 per cent of Port Saint John revenue in a normal year, so going without the business for a second season is a "significant blow," said Port Saint John CEO Jim Quinn.
But he called the port resilient and said he expects other sectors of its business will remain strong.
"Quite frankly, I worry more about the businesses in our community, and in the surrounding region that have cruise as a principal income-driver," Quinn said.
- An earlier version of this story stated that Marc Garneau is Canada's Transport Minister. In fact, Omar Alghabra currently holds that cabinet position.Feb 04, 2021 4:46 PM AT
With files from Julien Lecacheur