The US Congress joined the US Senate on Thursday to pass Alaska cruise ship legislation, leaving the Victoria cruise industry worried about the future and political opponents of Prime Minister John Horgan furious at not defend the industry.
Alaska Congressman Don Young took to social media to criticize Horgan, saying the Prime Minister’s public comments that the US bill had only a “remote” chance of ‘being adopted were wrong and that now Alaska will reap the tourist rewards that previously belonged to cities like Victoria and Vancouver. .
“This season, cruise lines will travel safely to our state to support Alaska’s jobs and economy – not BC’s,” Young tweeted, adding that Horgan had underestimated him.
Tips for @jjhorgan: don’t underestimate Don Young and the Alaska delegation! Our bill, the “blip” as you say, will now be enacted. This season, cruise passengers will travel safely to our state to support jobs and the economy of Alaska, not British Columbia. pic.twitter.com/feU0VbMFXj
– Représentant Don Young (@repdonyoung) May 20, 2021
In a subsequent public statement, he took another shot at Horgan. “Now that the bill is on the way to the President’s office and the cruises will bypass Canada completely, I am sure Premier Horgan will never again underestimate the ‘small but mighty’ delegation from the Alaska Congress.
The Alaska senators who originally sponsored the bill wrote to Horgan and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, begging them to find a compromise so that they did not need to pass the bill and increase the risk of it becoming permanent.
“Our friends in Canada could have helped us here when we really needed it, and it’s unfortunate that they ultimately didn’t,” Alaska Senator Dan Sullivan said in a statement.
In response, Holland America Cruise Line announced that it would restart cruises from Seattle in July, bypassing Canadian ports entirely.
The bill will expire in March 2022 or when Canada lifts its ban on foreign cruise ships. But already at least one US senator has said that the 100-year-old law that requires most cruise ships to Alaska to stop at a Canadian port unfairly benefits Canada and should be repealed for good.
This kind of change could decimate Victoria’s tourism sector, which receives $ 180 million annually from cruise ships and thousands of passengers.
“Frankly, I am disappointed,” said Ian Robertson, CEO of the Greater Victoria Port Authority. “I think we have to take this seriously. And I don’t think that as a province we can play roulette with an industry that is worth close to $ 3 billion a year.
Robertson said he met Tourism Minister Melanie Mark and Transport Minister Rob Fleming earlier this week to push for action, but so far little has happened.
The Americans have proposed allowing their cruise ships to make “technical stops” in Canadian ports, where they pass customs remotely and where no passengers disembark, in order to limit the spread of COVID-19 but also to satisfy to the existing law on foreign ports. Such a compromise would see the United States abandon their bill and any risk that it might be permanent.
But so far neither Horgan nor Trudeau have engaged the Alaskans on the offer. Horgan, in particular, said the U.S. legislation was unlikely to be passed, and even if it did, it would be temporary and of no long-term consequence. He has scheduled a meeting with the congressional delegation from Alaska next week.
American cruise ships are worth nearly $ 3 billion a year to the economy of British Columbia.
“There is a risk that this will become permanent,” said Liberal Opposition Leader Shirley Bond. “The Prime Minister threw it down on day one, said he would never even pass in the first place. And here we are. We are therefore asking the Prime Minister to do what he should have done months ago and to stand up and defend this sector and the economy of our province.
It is not clear whether the Americans would still accept the compromise of “technical shutdowns” or whether the passage of the bill to the president’s office can be stopped.