B.C. not imposing restrictions on inter-provincial travel, premier says
VANCOUVER -- The B.C. government is not planning to impose restrictions on inter-provincial travel, Premier John Horgan said Thursday.
The announcement followed one week after Horgan revealed officials were seeking legal advice regarding a potential ban on travellers coming into the province for non-essential reasons.
A review of the legal options available "made it clear we can't prevent people from travelling to British Columbia," the premier said in a statement.
However, Horgan did leave the door open to "stronger restrictions on non-essential travellers" if the province sees an increase in COVID-19 transmission linked to incoming visitors from other parts of Canada.
"We can impose restrictions on people travelling for non-essential purposes if they are causing harm to the health and safety of British Columbians. Much of current inter-provincial travel is work related and therefore cannot be restricted," Horgan said in a statement.
"Public health officials tell us what is most important is for everyone to obey health orders, wherever they are, rather than imposing mobility rules. Therefore, we will not be imposing travel restrictions at this time."
During his announcement last week, Horgan acknowledged the Canadian constitution allows for free travel within the country. The Tourism Industry Association of B.C. responded to the proposition by warning a limit on inter-provincial travel could damage British Columbia's reputation.
Horgan, who met with his counterparts from across Canada Thursday at a Council of the Federation meeting, noted that Primer Minister Justin Trudeau is also exploring additional international travel restrictions, and said B.C. "stands ready to assist."
A group made of up doctors, epidemiologists and economists has been calling on the federal government to take further action to prevent an influx of cases of the COVID-19 variants that have been spreading in other countries. A handful of cases of the U.K. variant and one case of the South African variant have already been confirmed in B.C.
Robert Greenhill, one of the founders of COVID Strategic Choices, called the mutations "a clear and present danger," and said the window to prevent widespread cases of the U.K. and South African variants is rapidly closing.
"If it's not too late already it will be too late within the next week," he said. "If we even have a handful of cases, even three cases in B.C., if they take a foothold in January it overwhelms the system by the end of March."
The group has launched a petition calling for testing at airports, quick vaccination of the hundreds of thousands of truckers and essential workers who must cross the border into the U.S., tougher quarantine rules and no non-essential travel.
With files from CTV News Vancouver Allison Hurst