U.S. Senators Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan and U.S. Congressional Representative Don Young penned a letter to Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and urged him to work with the Alaska Congressional Delegation on COVID-19 travel restrictions in an effort to limit the negative impacts to Alaskan and Canadian constituents.
The letter is in response to a February 4 announcement in which the Canadian Minister of Transport issued two new Interim Orders banning pleasure craft in Canadian Arctic waters and cruise ships in all waters until February 28, 2022. The effect of the combined bans will prevent Alaska sailings out of Seattle via Canada and is expected to have detrimental impacts on Alaska’s economy.
In the letter, the Congress members wrote: "We were shocked by the decision announced by your government last week to extend the ban on cruise ships carrying over 100 passengers until February 28, 2022. We are particularly concerned that this decision was made without any forewarning to or consultation with Alaska, your neighbor and partner. Losing access to Canadian ports creates significant disruptions to the cruising season in Alaska, and will have a significant economic impact on our state, which is already suffering from the recession caused by this pandemic. The loss of revenue from tourism for another year will cause extensive economic damage and put at risk the more than 20,000 jobs across Alaska that are reliant on spending from cruise ship passengers. While we agree that safety must be a priority as we make decisions, we are disappointed by the decision to extend the cruise ship ban for at least another a year without working with us."
The letter calls Alaska and Canada "neighbors and economic partners" and urges Trudeau to "consider Alaska as an essential stakeholder in your port and waterway closure considerations."
The senators and representative added that "there are many ways to achieve a safe sailing season without the extreme measure of a one year total ban ... including robust health protocols and the employment of technical stops, which may constitute a safe, yet reasonable, compromise to solving this dilemma."
The letter concludes: "Together, we believe we can find alternatives to address your health and safety concerns for Canada and Alaska alike.