In reading the many comments to my previous piece, Fernie. Essential Travel for Alberta!, I must admit I may have gone too far. The many concerned and reasoned comments by readers made me reconsider my position on closing the border with Alberta as the RDEK Board unanimously requested of the province in April 2020.
This position is wrong. We have inherent individual rights, Charter Rights and Constitutional rights that closing the border would shatter. We cannot build a wall a la Trump (that Mexico paid for, right?) between BC and Alberta (that Alberta would pay for, right?)
In the past few days, I have come to see it as a traffic problem. We can drive along at 100km per hour and when we come to a stop light turning from green, to yellow, to red, we stop. We wait. The light turns green and we go on.
There already is a viable and proven manner of handling the cross-border traffic. And one previously shown to be legal by participating provinces. And one that openly welcomes residents of neighboring provinces while fully abiding by the provincial health guidelines.
Our northern neighbors, the Yukon and the Northwest Territories, have instituted a program similar to the bubble of the Maritimes. Entering individuals merely must completely self-isolate for 14 days. After that time, they are free to travel within the province/territory bubble. Simple and not at all restricting of free travel. This merely adds a minor “sit at a stop light” condition to the itinerary of anyone wanting to enjoy the wonders of British Columbia.
There are distinct economic advantages to this program for Fernie. The visitor is economically “captured” by our community for a longer stay. All their food, meals, lodging and other services would be supplied by businesses in the immediate area of the self-isolation. As an example, in Fernie, we’ve essentially lost the economic impact of the Non-Stop programs.
Non-Stop brought in skiers and boarders for long-term development programs at Fernie Alpine Resort. By requiring visitors to self-isolate for 14 days, we would be replacing the lost Non-Stop participants with similar visitors desiring a quality ski experience at Fernie Alpine Resort. They would buy their meals, booze, entertainment, and lodging in town as the Non-Stoppers in the past, but would be house-bound for the first two weeks. No big deal. After that they would be free to wander. The pent-up social starvation of self-isolation would likely lead them to participate to an even greater effect than our lost Non-Stoppers.
This is an opportunity to model our interactions with our neighboring province in a proven manner that is beneficial to both parties—resident and visitor. At the same time, it allows visitors to fully comply with the reasonable guidelines of Dr. Bonnie Henry.
It’s a win-win for everyone. We trade day visitors for long-term visitors and thus build a stronger and more vibrant economic recovery.
Any visitor found not complying would immediately be deported. We could have a mountain-style shelter built on the border, perhaps designed by someone local mountain architect. Anyone found breaking the 14-day self-isolation would immediately (without recourse) be driven to the shelter and dropped off so a friend from the neighboring province could pick them up.
Again, thanks for the many thoughtful comments. They really helped me reach and propose a reasonable solution to the issues we are faced going forward with the Covid pandemic. Hopefully the powers-that-be will follow through.