Nanaimo’s member of Parliament is asking the federal and provincial governments for stricter limitations on ferry travel.
Paul Manly, Green MP for Nanaimo-Ladysmith, wrote to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, B.C. Premier John Horgan and federal and provincial ministers on Friday, April 10, asking that the government restrict non-essential travel “and enforce that restriction.”
“It is clear that too many people are ignoring the directive from both levels of government to stay at home,” Manly wrote. “There can be no justification for a rise in ferry ridership during a long weekend in a public health emergency. This can no longer just be a request for people to stay home.”
Manly cited concern for Vancouver Island residents who he said “have done a great job” of following direction from health authorities and have helped to ‘flatten the curve’ of COVID-19 cases.
Earlier this month, B.C. Ferries announced major service cuts that included suspending all sailings to and from Departure Bay terminal and halving regular passenger service to and from Duke Point terminal. The ferry corporation said traffic was down about 80 per cent during the pandemic.
On Good Friday, April 10, the 12:45 p.m. vessel from Tsawwassen to Duke Point sailed at full capacity, according to B.C. Ferries. The ferry corporation clarified that that percentage is based on new temporary Transport Canada regulations mandating that ferries carry no more than 50 per cent of their maximum passenger capacity.
“The coast isn’t going anywhere and neither should you. Please don’t travel if it’s not essential,” B.C. Ferries posted on social media. “Per Transport Canada, we’re screening for COVID-19. We don’t have authority/direction to stop healthy travellers. We need you to stay home.”
B.C. Ferries is asking passengers to remain in their vehicles during sailings and to physically distance from other passengers and staff members when accessing other decks. It is also screening passengers and is authorized to deny boarding to those with certain symptoms.
Ferries president and CEO Mark Collins told the News Bulletin last month that if passengers present themselves for travel, B.C. Ferries has a mandate to carry them.
“It’s not for us to decide whether or not a marine highway stays open or closed…” he said. “It’s not B.C. Ferries’ role to make such a decision. If the public health authorities or government were to make that decision, we would certainly help facilitate it; we would do our utmost to co-operate.”
Nanaimo MLA Sheila Malcolmson told the News Bulletin last month that any order limiting non-essential travel would be based on science and would come from the provincial health officer.
“It will not be a political decision,” she said.