'Two sets of rules': Is B.C.'s plan for NHL hockey in Vancouver fair to residents? Liberals say no
A woman walks past large photos of Vancouver Canucks Elias Pettersson, left, of Sweden, and captain Bo Horvat outside Rogers Arena, home to the NHL team, in Vancouver, on Thursday, March 12, 2020. (Darryl Dyck / THE CANADIAN PRESS)
VANCOUVER -- While some fans are excited at the prospect of NHL hockey returning to Vancouver, others feel the province's plan to allow for a hub city is unfair to residents of British Columbia.
In a statement posted online Thursday, the BC Liberals pointed to what the party called "two sets of rules": one for players, one for the rest of the province.
Earlier this week, Premier John Horgan announced a plan to bring hockey back had received approval from provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry.
The premier had previously spoken to NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman about the possibility, which, if approved, would see Vancouver become one of a handful of cities that would host games when the league resumes.
Most likely, the arenas chosen by the league would be empty of fans, at least while bans on gatherings prompted by COVID-19 continue.
But concerns had been raised by public health officials about the travel involved. Currently any international travellers arriving in B.C. are required to self-isolate for two weeks.
Speaking in late May, Henry said the province would not be willing to bend the rules for professional athletes, and while Vancouver had already been shortlisted as a hub city, it seemed like the rules may hurt its chances.
The NHL said it will only choose two cities to host games – one for Eastern Conference teams, and another for Western. The shortlist of 10 cities also includes Edmonton and Toronto.
Henry said she was "happy to see what we can do" but was not willing to change any rules that would undo the work the province has done to flatten the coronavirus curve.
But this week, the premier said Henry had modified a plan that would allow it to go ahead.
The revised quarantine plan allows for a team to be considered a family entity, or a "bubble."
Teammates would stay in the same hotel, go to Rogers Arena together in private transportation, and could not interact with the public for 14 days. Any COVID-19 testing would be up to the team.
But the Opposition calls the plan unfair to those who actually call B.C. home.
"The BC Liberals are questioning why John Horgan and the NDP are introducing two sets of rules for people in the wake of COVID-19," the party said in a statement posted on its website.
Kamloops-North Thompson MLA Peter Milobar said he supports bringing sports back to B.C.
"But creating special travel and health exemptions for hockey players and celebrities while there are still British Columbians who can't be reunited with their families and loved ones is simply unfair," he wrote.
"People across B.C. have made great sacrifices to flatten the curve and save lives, so why is John Horgan so strongly advocating for a special set of rules for athletes instead of fighting for all of us?"
Milobar pointed to questions from residents wishing to expand their social bubbles to include grandparents and isolated family members, and to those hoping for a further economic restart.
He also questioned whether hotel workers would be safe while engaging with players who've recently travelled.
The party is calling for a strategy that would let regions with few cases lift further restrictions.
The day before the Liberal letter was posted, Horgan said the province's priorities still include the health of its residents.
"We're not prepared to put at risk the progress that British Columbians have made to this point in time," he said Wednesday.
So far, the government has OKed gatherings of two to six people, but that group should be consistent if possible, rather than a different two to six each time.
Meeting outside is best, and keeping a distance of at least two metres is recommended when possible.
Horgan added Tourism Vancouver has been involved in discussions and sees many benefits to local industries, should hockey return.
The Canucks say frequent testing and medical protocols could be followed carefully, "but we would ensure the event does not take any tests or resources away from the public."