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B.C. premier says local tourism 'could break records' in 2020
VICTORIA -- As Canada continues to restrict international travel amid the COVID-19 pandemic, B.C. Premier John Horgan says local tourism could reach new heights this year.
Speaking from the rose garden at the B.C. legislature Wednesday, Horgan said that domestic tourism “could break records,” when it is safe to do so.
The premier said continued international travel bans, and a ban on cruise ships from docking in B.C., has many local residents and business owners looking for a provincial staycation.
Horgan did note, however, that domestic travel still poses a risk at this time, but would be open again during the third phase of the province’s restart plan, which could arrive as early as mid-June.
“If people want to book arrangements for their favourite spaces in B.C. they are welcome to do so, but there is no guarantee that you’ll be able to get there,” said Horgan.
“While I absolutely understand that people will want to go and move around and I absolutely understand that tourism businesses will want that to happen, it wasn’t too long ago that leaders were asking people not to travel.”
Horgan said that recreational travel guidelines for British Columbians within the province will be outlined during phase three of the restart plan.
“I would expect in the middle of June we will begin looking at easing restrictions and entering phase three,” he said. “But I don’t want to give anyone false hope, this is a dynamic situation.”
With protests erupting across the U.S. and Canada, Horgan said that the B.C. government is committed to combatting racism.
He cited a recent demonstration on the lawns of the B.C. legislature in Victoria as an example of a positive and peaceful protest.
“I believe we’re doing well but we always have room for improvement,” he said.
“I encourage people to have their voices heard but please, please abide by the guidelines that the provincial health officer has put in place,” Horgan said, referring to physical distancing and the wearing of non-medical masks in crowded areas.
The premier also touched on two new actions the province took Monday: the reopening of schools to students and the raising of the provincial minimum wage.
Horgan said that the reopening of schools has been a success so far and that there has been a gradual increase in the number of families interested in re-entering schools.
“We’re confident that this can be done in a way that protects the health and safety of teachers, children and all involved in the K-12 system,” he said.
Meanwhile, the premier addressed concerns from business owners about the raising of minimum wage.
To help reduce the burden of minimum wage boost, Horgan said that the province was working on reducing challenges for small businesses that have arisen due to COVID-19.
Horgan added that while there were concerns among the business community, the 75-cents-an-hour increase will be beneficial for minimum-wage workers through the pandemic.
“I believe that the least paid workers in British Columbia should not pay the brunt of COVID-19,” he said.