Horgan 'disappointed' that passengers can’t stay in cars on enclosed BC Ferries decks
VICTORIA -- B.C. Premier John Horgan says that he is "disappointed" that Transport Canada is rescinding measures that were put in place to promote physical distancing on BC Ferries.
Earlier this year, Transport Canada authorized a temporary exemption to regular ferry practices that allowed passengers to stay in their cars in enclosed vehicle decks to encourage physical distancing.
Now, the federal government says that passengers will no longer be allowed to stay in their parked cars on enclosed vehicle decks on most BC Ferries routes due to safety concerns, starting Sept. 30.
While speaking at a live briefing Wednesday, Horgan said that the decision was an "unwelcome intrusion" from Ottawa and that the B.C. government was committed to reversing the policy as soon as possible.
"Yeah, we were disappointed with the announcements from Transport Canada," said Horgan.
"This is not something we sought, this is something that's being imposed," he said.
Many British Columbians have raised concerns over physical distancing on BC Ferries now that the new policy has been announced, as many seats are still cordoned off to encourage space between passengers.
To address the concern, BC Ferries says that it will reopen some closed areas for seating only, including the Pacific Buffet areas of Spirit Class ships. No food will be available.
"Enclosed car decks are spaces that represent inherent risk to the travelling public," said BC Ferries in a statement Wednesday.
"During the pandemic these risks were mitigated with additional safety procedures and patrols. However, Transport Canada has now advised BC Ferries that measures have been developed and implemented to prevent the spread of the disease in all transportation modes and businesses across Canada."
The new measures include additional cleaning and sanitation, a mandatory face mask policy for passengers and continued physical distancing.
The new policy will be in effect along several major routes, between Tsawwassen and Swartz Bay, Tsawwassen and Duke Point, Horseshoe Bay and Departure Bay, Powell River and Comox, and Tsawwassen and the Southern Gulf Islands.
According to Transport Canada, the exemption that allowed passengers to remain in their vehicles on enclosed vehicle decks was always intended to be temporary and was created before there was a more detailed understanding of COVID-19.
"Remaining in a car in an enclosed area carries the risk of passengers being trapped or injured during an emergency," said Transport Canada in a statement Thursday.
"Ensuring that passengers stay in designated passenger areas is a significant protective measure against hazards such as fire, impaired evacuation and injuries."
Horgan said Wednesday that the B.C. government will now "aggressively" pursue changing the policy with the federal government.
"We believe that our marine highway is an integral part (of British Columbia) and an essential service, so do a huge number of British Columbians," said Horgan.
"We believe that we can safely transport people, provided that we have support and cooperation from Ottawa."
With files from CTV News Vancouver's Kendra Mangione