The City of Victoria has put forward a request to the Greater Victoria Harbour Authority (GVHA) and the federal government to suspend the arrival of international cruise ships following recent announcements about COVID-19.
On Monday, Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry announced the first death of a B.C. resident due to coronavirus, and advised a change in cruise ship scheduling.
“We are very aware that the cruise ship season is coming up here in Victoria,” Henry said. “My personal belief right now is we are in a very critical time around the world and it is my belief that we should be delaying our cruise season until we are in a safer place internationally.”
In a motion put forward by Coun. Ben Isitt, the City asks that the GVHA “follow the advice of the Provincial Health Officer and suspend authorization for the landing of international cruise ships at the Ogden Point Wharves until risks associated with COVID-19 have subsided” and that the Government of Canada – which is the operator of the Port– do the same.
The request also asks the federal government to “provide relief to workers and business that experience hardship as a result of a postponement of cruise ship visits.”
Isitt brought forward the motion as a last-minute addition to the committee of the whole meeting, a move which some council members, including Mayor Lisa Helps and Coun. Marianne Alto, felt was disrespectful to involved parties, specifically the GVHA which had not been notified of the motion.
“My concern with this is the City not letting there be an opportunity for the GVHA and Transport Canada and other informed authorities to provide us with the expert advice we need to make informed decisions,” Alto said. “This critical decision making opportunity is one that should be relying on a disciplined collaborative approach that does not move with out consulting with the very people responsible.”
Helps echoed these feelings by noting that “blindsiding our partners is never a good idea… especially in a crisis.”
Regardless of the procedure, however, council members agreed they’d heard a wave of public concerns about the cruise ships.
“We do have the responsibility to present the views of the public,” said Coun. Sarah Potts. “We’ve certainly been hearing quite a bit.”
The City of Victoria has no authority over ports, and the motion only acts as a voice of support for decisions made by the federal government.