B.C. Premier John Horgan says the Vancouver Canucks’ proposal to make Vancouver an NHL hub city has been approved by both public health and the province.
John Horgan said Wednesday he has written to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to advance the initiative put together based on a modification of quarantine measures that would allow a team to remain together as a family or bubble.
A team would stay in one hotel and travel together to Rogers Arena for games using private transportation, be responsible for any COVID-19 testing and agree to not interact with the public during a 14-day isolation period, Horgan said.
Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and the Vancouver Canucks have come up with an agreement that protects players and the public, Horgan said.
“I think that Vancouver has a very compelling case to make and I support it wholly,” Horgan said.
Edmonton and Toronto are the other two Canadian cities competing to become a hub for the league, with Alberta Premier Jason Kenney calling Edmonton “the safest place they could find on the continent” to finish off the season.
The NHL hasn’t yet named which two cities would host the games for the resumption of play, but possible locations include Chicago, Columbus, Ohio, Dallas, Edmonton, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Minneapolis/St. Paul, Pittsburgh, Toronto and Vancouver.
The league unveiled a 24-team format that would likely see the Stanley Cup awarded in the fall, if play resumes.
Horgan said B.C.’s plan would allow for an economic boost to Vancouver from hotel rentals and other services.
British Columbia’s tourism sector is expected to make some gains this summer, he said, but added he has no illusions that domestic travel will fill the void left by American and international travellers who help local businesses thrive.
The province will focus on tourism as part of its recovery plan as an industry that’s integral to B.C.’s economy, Horgan said, adding people need a sense of safety and comfort before they travel.
“British Columbians need to get out, stretch their legs, go to other places but they’re not feeling particularly comfortable about that just yet,” he said, noting the province is faring better than other parts of the country and COVID-19 cases have recently increased in neighbouring U.S. states due to large gatherings.
He said the province will remain vigilant in keeping the border closed until COVID-19 is better managed in Washington, Oregon and California.
“Saying no to U.S. tourists in Victoria is a very difficult pill to swallow, I absolutely understand that. But I think the public is behind me on this. We want to make sure that our reopening is safe and if that means we have to help businesses in other ways we’re absolutely prepared to do that.”
The province has $1.5 billion in recovery funding that has not yet been allocated and the tourism sector could benefit from that on a case-by-case basis, Horgan said.
The sport fishing industry is among businesses that are suffering, with the province typically looking to the federal government for regulations on openings and closing time frames for chinook fishing and other regulations, Horgan said.
“If that’s not enough pressure for these businesses to try and operate, put a pandemic on top of that that restricts the ability of people to come from outside our borders (and) that’s a significant challenge.”
Horgan also said Wednesday the B.C. government has created a ministerial order that protects amateur sport organizations, their employees and volunteers from liability.
According to the government, provincial and local sport organizations have identified challenges with obtaining adequate insurance as a result of the pandemic. Most insurance companies are not providing coverage for COVID-19 related damages, meaning many amateur sports were unable to provide sport programming during the pandemic.
The ministerial order protects amateur sport organizations and their representatives from damages resulting, directly or indirectly, from COVID-19 for amateur sports.
For example, a sports organization or its representatives will not be liable for a participant in their sports program being exposed to COVID-19 as a result of participation. That liability protection would be in place as long as they follow applicable guidance, such as viaSport’s Return to Sport protocols and public-health guidance on how to prevent the spread of the virus.
This guidance includes encouraging proper handwashing, regular disinfecting, limiting shared equipment, physical distancing measures and the use of wellness questionnaires and health self-assessment tools.
Horgan also said the B.C. government has once again extended the state of emergency for another two weeks, until June 23.
B.C.’s ongoing provincial state of emergency is the longest in British Columbia’s history – a state which allows the province to continue to use extraordinary powers under the Emergency Program Act to support the COVID-19 pandemic response.
The last time Horgan extended the state of emergency was on May 27, when he suggested there was “no end in sight.”
Horgan also said Wednesday that workers coming out of the country to work in the film and T.V. sectors still have to comply with the 14-day quarantine.
And he said Dr. Bonnie Henry is waiting for two incubation periods before the government gives the green light for people to start travelling around B.C., adding that British Columbians need to stay vigilant until there’s a vaccine.
As for the effect of COVID-19 on ferry routes, Horgan said he understands the anxiety coastal communities are feeling but there are factors out of the government’s control, as BC Ferries answers to a board of directors.
Last week, Horgan said the reopening of schools was going smoothly, and that it was possible to enter B.C. into phase 3 of the Restart Plan, but he did not want to make any guarantees.
Horgan reminded all protesters in the province to take precautions amid the pandemic but said it was in their rights to stand up for what they believe in.
This was in response to various protests and demonstrations popping up all over the province, following the death of George Floyd, a black man who died after a Minneapolis police officer pressed a knee into Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes.
A rally was held in Downtown Victoria in Centennial Square on Sunday, bringing in thousands of supporters for the Black Lives Matter movement.
With files from Camille Bains, The Canadian Press