Excerpt from debate in the B.C. Legislature during Question Period on Monday, June 14, 2021.
T. Stone: Earlier in question period, we saw some energy from the Premier on the tourism sector. If only we’d have seen that energy eight months ago, the cruise ship sector wouldn’t be in the crisis that it is today. The Premier should have — he should have — been all over the cruise ship sector from day one, and that was as of last October, but instead of standing up for our tourism sector, the Premier went and called an unnecessary pandemic election, which essentially froze government for a number of months.
Now the Premier says he couldn’t possibly have predicted what has happened in B.C.’s cruise ship sector. Ian Robertson from the Victoria Harbour Authority says: “There is always that risk. That’s how things become permanent. They start with a temporary measure, and then they become permanent.”
Could the Premier please tell us: after ignoring the issue for eight months, what immediate steps has he taken to protect B.C.’s multi-billion dollar cruise ship sector?
Hon. J. Horgan: I’m sure the member from Kamloops will know that the two acts in question in the United States are over 100 years old. It’s not surprising that the United States Senate wants to modernize some of its archaic practices. Fair enough.
The marketplace tells people that British Columbia is a good place to come to. People who sell tickets and passage on cruise ships want to do that. The industry wants to come here. Eight months ago, as the member goes back…. Eight months ago, how could we have predicted this would have been a problem? It was pretty easy to predict. The borders were closed. Even Liberals could have understand that that would have negative impact on tourism and that would have had a negative impact on the cruise ship sector.
Here’s the good news. Of course it’s good news that’s perpetuating on this side of the House, because we’re focused on a positive step forward. Today, we announced going to step 2 in our restart plan, lauded by the industry, lauded by the tourism sector. In another two weeks, as we go through another incubation period, we’re going to probably move to stage 3, which will mean even more opportunity for people to come to British Columbia, to see the splendour here, to maybe, if cruise ships are running again….
This is the U.S. Centers for Disease Control that are putting these restrictions in place. It’s not me. Pardon me, it’s not this government. It’s someone else. I appreciate it’s easy to blame me for all the problems in the world. Bring it on. I’m happy to hear from you, Member.
T. Stone: Well, news flash for the Premier. It is the Premier’s job to defend the thousands and thousands of British Columbians who work in the cruise ship sector. It is the Premier’s job to stand up for the sector and everybody who works in it.
The Premier has been sleeping at the switch. He was first notified of the issues that were building in the cruise ship sector — and the concerns that the Alaskan delegation in particular had — eight months ago. He did nothing at that time. He did nothing up until literally it seems days ago. He’s put the entire cruise ship sector in British Columbia at grave risk.
While the Premier was pretending that everything was fine in the sector last Friday, industry experts had differing views of the state of the sector. The very next day, the Premier was contradicted by Ian Robertson of the Victoria Harbour Authority, who said: “I’m incredibly concerned. This was always my fear that this legislation, while being talked about as being temporary, could become permanent. Quite honestly, I don’t think government, both the provincial and federal level, took this seriously enough when this all started.”
Again, the question to the Premier is this: will the Premier do at least one thing right and tell British Columbians what he’s doing besides shrugging and hoping to protect the thousands of cruise ship sector jobs that are at risk because of his inaction?
Hon. J. Horgan: Well, again, the port authorities are federal jurisdiction. Mr. Robertson was appointed by the federal government. I would have thought that he could have reached out to the people who closed the borders and asked them about reopening them. That’s what I would have done if I was a federal appointee. And I’ve done that anyway, because I believe British Columbians, when we are ready to open up our borders, will welcome the world back here.
We have, as the cruise ship industry says, a marquis destination. I would have thought the free enterprisers on the other side would have allowed the market to speak on these questions rather than following the debates and deliberations of the U.S. Senate, which seems to be a preoccupation. Maybe you don’t have enough to do on that side of the House anymore.
Source: B.C. Hansard