Can Albertans travel to B.C.? Yes, but with some odd restrictions | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Can Albertans travel to B.C.? Yes, but with some odd restrictions

A welcome to B.C. sign is seen in this photo taken May 26, 2007.
Image Credit: WIKIMEDIA COMMONS/Hans-Peter Eckhardt
April 26, 2021 - 11:05 AM

While residents of the Okanagan and Kamloops face $575 fines if they travel into the Lower Mainland, Albertans are free to roam most of the province with impunity.

The Albertans end up becoming like B.C. residents living in the combined Interior and Northern health regions who are able to travel anywhere in B.C. as long as it’s not the Lower Mainland or Vancouver Island.

“If you’re coming into British Columbia from Alberta, and then you decide that you’re going to now go to Vancouver, you potentially could get a fine, which is $575,” Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General Mike Farnworth said in response to a question at a news briefing Friday, April 23.

That briefing outlined the new travel restrictions aimed at curbing the spread of COVID-19. It combines, for travel purposes, the Interior and Northern health regions where people can travel freely, although they’re encouraged not to travel for recreation or vacation purposes. Non-essential travel into the Lower Mainland from that region is prohibited.

Albertans can travel anywhere in the combined region as well.

READ MORE: B.C. restricts travel to and from Interior and Lower Mainland to stop COVID-19 spread

Farnworth was asked why B.C. won’t close the border to Alberta, similar to the Atlantic bubble created in the Maritimes at various times during the pandemic.

“The situation in British Columbia is, I would argue, significantly different than that of Atlantic Canada, for size, for geography of our province,” Farnworth said.

There will be signage at the Alberta border discouraging non-essential travel but the main aim of the travel restrictions is to keep the Lower Mainland, with its high number of COVID cases, isolated from the rest of B.C.

The only real hardship Albertans visiting B.C. face is it may be difficult to find a place to stay.

“We’ve been working with the tourism industry to cancel, for example, out of province bookings that they’ve been looking after cooperatively with us,” Farnworth said.

The hotel industry has been asked to voluntarily cancel such reservations and not accept new ones until after May 25 but as the B.C. Hotel Association told it is not an enforcement agency so can only ask their members to discourage out of province or out of region tourists.

READ MORE: New B.C. travel restrictions likely to hit Okanagan harder than Kamloops

Hotel association president and CEO Ingrid Jarrett ]was hopeful short-term rental operators, such as Airbnb, would join that effort and cancel reservations from Albertans but there is no requirement for them to do so.

If Albertans have friends to stay with, a place to camp outside a provincial campground or have second homes to stay in, they’re free to visit.

They will also be treated the same as British Columbians when it comes to the long list of what is considered essential travel.

There are still no details from the province on how travellers will be checked if they try driving into the Lower Mainland from the Interior.

“The detailed information on that will be coming out next week,” Farnworth said.

“What I want to stress is, it’s not arbitrary or random and it’s not road blocks," he said. "What it is is periodic road checks, similar to what you see with the Counter Attack program at key points, strategic points, at borders between health authorities. In the case of the Lower Mainland, Northern and Interior Health, it would be Highway 1 just before it turns into the Canyon Route, the Coquihalla or the Hope-Princeton.”

No mention was made of any possible checks on Highway 99 connecting Pemberton, north of Whistler, to the Interior Health region at Lillooet. That’s about 100 kilometres of paved road formerly called Duffy Lake Road.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Rob Munro or call 250-808-0143 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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