Municipal, provincial officials plot lobbying effort to keep cruise ships coming into B.C. ports

No matter what the final results of Monday’s federal election end up being, it will not be long before local officials and provincial politicians are knocking on doors in Ottawa to get federal weight behind a lobbying effort to protect the Canadian cruise ship industry.

Stakeholders have said it will take effort at every level of government to derail the plans of some American lawmakers to allow large cruise ships to bypass Canadian ports on their way to Alaska.

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Transportation Minister Rob Fleming said the provincial government plans to meet “urgently with whomever forms government next week to get them to engage immediately with the United States and assert Canada’s interests in Washington, D.C.”

He said that he had raised the issue with his federal counterpart before the election and Premier John Horgan had done the same with the Canadian ambassador to the U.S., Kirsten Hillman, and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

The Greater Victoria Harbour Authority said recently that no matter which party is in charge, it will get an earful on how devastating the plans could be for the Canadian industry.

Utah Senator Mike Lee, Alaska Congressman Don Young and Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski want to permanently exempt large cruise ships from the Passenger Vessel Services Act for cruises between the U.S. and Alaska.

The change would mean foreign-flagged cruise ships could travel directly between U.S. ports without touching a foreign country. That could devastate the cruise industry in Victoria, which reaps about $143 million annually from cruise visits.

In a statement, Global Affairs Canada said officials from Transport Canada, Canada Border Services Agency, Public Health Agency of Canada, Global Affairs Canada and the Canadian embassy in Washington, D.C., have been in “close contact with their American counterparts about each other’s measures with respect to cruise ships, as well as options to open the cruise season safely.”

It said the U.S. bill proposals are being closely monitored.

Ian Robertson, chief executive of the Greater Victoria Harbour Authority, said Canada will need to do whatever it takes to ensure the proposed legislation doesn’t make it through the system, which could mean direct lobbying in Washington and pushing for action through the Canadian embassy.

Earlier this year, new U.S. legislation, introduced by Alaska lawmakers, was approved to temporarily allow cruise ships to bypass Canadian ports on the way to Alaska for the 2021 cruise season, after Ottawa banned cruise ships from Canadian waters due to the pandemic.

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