Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks during a news conference on the COVID-19 pandemic outside his residence at Rideau Cottage in Ottawa, on Thursday, June 18, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang

Travel will have to wait, despite calls from Canada’s business leaders: Trudeau

Open letter to premiers, prime minister urges ‘safe’ reopening of travel corridors

Travel into Canada will have to wait a while longer, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told reporters at a press conference Monday (June 22).

“Every step of the way, as we look at those next steps, we have to make sure we are keeping Canadians safe,” Trudeau said.

The prime minister said he understood how “difficult and frustrating” the COVID-related travel bans are for many, but said moving too soon would just send Canada backwards in its fight against the virus.

“We know that reopening too quickly or careless would lead us to a resurgence that might well force us to go back to lockdown, to shut down the economy once again,” Trudeau said.

The Canada-U.S. border has been shut to non-essential travel since March 21, and is currently on track to remain closed until July 21, although the closure could be extended. Canadians have been told to avoid non-essential international travel abroad since mid-March.

READ MORE: Canada-U.S. border closure to be extended until July 21

He pointed to supports brought in by the federal government, which include the Canada Emergency Response Benefit, the wage subsidy, interest-free loans for small businesses and bridge financing for larger companies.

Trudeau’s words came after an open letter from the Canadian Travel & Tourism Roundtable.

In the letter, CEOs from companies like Air Canada, WestJet, Scotiabank and TELUS urged the prime minister and premiers to take action on resuming travel throughout Canada, as well as internationally.

READ MORE: Cross-Canada group calls for reopening of travel, tourism

The CEOs said Canada was entering a new phase of its pandemic response where the country “must find a responsible way to co-exist with COVID-19” until a vaccine is found.

“This includes prudently and thoughtfully opening aviation and lifting restrictions on travel throughout all provinces of Canada, as well as from select countries,” the letter said. The business leaders pointed to other regions, like within the European Union, that have introduced “‘safe’ corridors or air bridges” for travel.

In B.C., officials have said travel is on track to resume within the province this summer. In the current phase of COVID-19 restrictions, British Columbians have been asked to avoid non-essential travel throughout the province, particularly to remote communities that do not have the health-care facilities to handle an influx of virus cases.

“I think the likelihood of us traveling inside of B.C. is very, very high,” Premier John Horgan said during a June 10 press conference.

Meanwhile, the travel industry has been hit hard by complaints amid the pandemic. Many international flights, and some domestic, have been cancelled or postponed due to the virus. Earlier this month, the Better Business Bureau said travel agencies, airlines and vacation rentals had the most negative feedback during the pandemic. Overall, the bureau received more than 53,000 complaints and reviews between March and May – a 280 per cent increase over a three-month period. Of those complaints, airlines and vacation rentals received 2,565 and 2,089, respectively.

READ MORE: B.C. tourism on track for in-province travel, John Horgan says


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katya.slepian@bpdigital.ca

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