Tourism, business groups push government to give a clearer re-opening plan

·3 min read
Compliance officers check vehicles at the Nova Scotia-New Brunswick border near Amherst in April 2020. Many Nova Scotians are asking the Liberal government for a clearer re-opening plan. (Andrew Vaughan/The Canadian Press - image credit)
Compliance officers check vehicles at the Nova Scotia-New Brunswick border near Amherst in April 2020. Many Nova Scotians are asking the Liberal government for a clearer re-opening plan. (Andrew Vaughan/The Canadian Press - image credit)

Liberal governments in Ottawa and Nova Scotia are under increasing pressure to lift restrictions that have helped keep Nova Scotians safe, but are also keeping tourists and other visitors from being able to plan their east coast travels.

On Tuesday, the national Travel Industry Association of Canada launched an online campaign to get the Canada-U.S. border reopened as quickly as possible.

"We're asking the [federal] government to take urgent action on the border situation because tourism operators and businesses need time to plan and prepare," David MacKenna, chair of the board, said during an online news conference.

"There's staff to hire and train and marketing products to develop to show that Canada is once again open for business. Many of our businesses rely on advanced booking and no one is booking here with this uncertainty."

The federal government has not set a date when border restrictions might be lifted to allow U.S. visitors to travel freely into and across Canada.

TIAC also wants the provinces to adopt a single set of rules for moving between provinces.

Nova Scotia has talked about reinstating the Atlantic Bubble, but unlike the other three Atlantic provinces, it has not set a target date for that to happen, other than suggesting it could happen by July.

Confusion and inconsistency

Corryn Clemence, CEO of the Tourism Industry Association of P.E.I., said Nova Scotia's plan to reopen slower than the other Atlantic provinces may cost operators across the region.

"I think we're seeing some of that now with the confusion," said Clemence. "I think it's really important that we have some consistency in our plans to simplify that process and really enable people to travel."

Although the Tourism Industry of Nova Scotia agrees with the goal of reopening as quickly as possible, the group has not joined the national campaign.

Darlene Grant Fiander, president of the Nova Scotia group, said they are focused on helping local tourism operators reach potential visitors from the rest of Canada.

"We are pushing for regional consistency in terms of guidelines, to ensure business can be leveraged and we get governments aligned with a coordinated approach for group travel throughout Canada," she said in an email to CBC News.

"While we long for full international travel, we know that timing will be dictated on national health epidemiology."

New business group wants dates

Another group made up of some of Nova Scotia's most powerful business owner is also asking the Nova Scotia government to give the public more information about its re-opening plans.

The newly-formed Nova Scotia Business Alliance includes dozens of companies related to the tourism and hospitality sector, along with developers, contractors and car dealers.

The group urged Liberal Premier Iain Rankin to set clear dates on when restrictions might be lifted, including recreating an Atlantic bubble by next week and welcoming visitors from the rest of the country by Canada Day.

Robert Zed, spokesperson for the alliance, said businesses need time to plan for such major changes to how they operate.

"We understand that these things change every day and we're dealing with variance and we're dealing with a lot of unknowns," said Zed.

"But in our companies, we deal with unknowns every day. But we do pick dates, we do pick a plan, and we say, 'If we can get there, we will.' If something happens, we understand, but we want clear dates so that we can plan."

Zed said they were having positive talks with the government.

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