A new bill passed by the U.S. Government that could allow Alaska-bound cruise ships to bypass B.C. ports has Victoria tourism companies concerned.
Taylor Mason, Owner of Rickshaw Runners Victoria, says the pandemic had already inflicted enough financial distress, and this will only make it worse.
“I’ve probably been the guy in Canada who’s seen the largest change in his earning,” Mason said half-jokingly.
Mason’s business employs over 20 locals and relies heavily on cruise ship passengers.
The U.S. bill would run until March 2022, when Canada’s cruise ship ban will expire. However, there are fears among many that the bill will be kept long-term, effectively ending any hopes for businesses like Mason’s to stay alive.
“It would mean that I wouldn’t have a business. The niche of what we do, the overwhelming majority of the revenue is to bring tourists around the city and safely back,” said Mason.
B.C. Premier John Horgan received criticism this week from political opponents for his government’s non-cholent response.
“The premier dismissed it from day one, said it would never even pass in the first place,” said opposition leader Shirley Bond. “And here we are. So we’re calling on the premier to do what he should have done months ago and stand up and be an advocate for this sector and for the economy of our province.”
Greater Victoria Harbour Authority (GVHA) CEO Ian Robertson echoes the comments made by the opposition, saying the industry is too valuable to gamble.
“Quite frankly I’m disappointed. I do believe that we do need to take this seriously and I don’t think that as a province we can play roulette with an industry that’s worth close to $3 billion dollars a year.” Roberston said.
In Greater Victoria alone, cruise ships help pump in around $180-million into the economy.
“I think we should all be nervous, those of us in the tourism, we all have to gather our eggs together and support the GVHA and their undertaking to lobby Ottawa to ensure we have some kind of protection,” said Victoria Harbour Ferry President Barry Hobbis.
The fate of the bill now sits in hands of U.S. President Joe Biden.