question period — Foreign Affairs

U.S. Travel Advisory

May 5, 2021


Hon. Donald Neil Plett (Leader of the Opposition)
[14:26]

Honourable senators, my question today is for the government leader in the Senate.

Leader, the U.S. Department of State website contains the following travel advisory, dated April 20, 2021: “Do not travel to Canada due to COVID-19.” This new guidance also says:

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued a Level 4 Travel Health Notice for Canada due to COVID-19, indicating a very high level of COVID-19 in the country.

There is no level worse than Level 4 for the U.S. Department of State, leader. We are now in the same company as Iran and North Korea. As I mentioned to you last month, leader, the U.S. has warned that citizens, even fully vaccinated travellers to Canada, may be at risk for contracting and spreading COVID-19 variants.

Leader, a yes-or-no question and a yes-or-no answer: Is the Trudeau government proud of its record on COVID-19 when even our best friend and ally is giving Canada a failing grade?

Hon. Marc Gold (Government Representative in the Senate)
[14:28]

The Government of Canada is working hard to protect Canadians. We understand it is the duty of every government to protect their citizens and to advise them appropriately, as we’ve done with our citizens when issues arise around the world and as the United States has done as well.

It is very unfortunate that we still have the level of infection and community transmission that we do in many parts of Canada, and we need to bring it further under control. I will remind senators, however, that according to public health experts the most important thing we can do — even when vaccinated and even as vaccines continue to roll out and vaccinations continue to increase — is to maintain, as we do in the chamber, physical distancing and follow health guidelines.

[14:29]

I guess this is another indication of why this is called Question Period and not question-and-answer session. If your answers are not going to even touch on the subject, they could at least be shorter so we could get a few more questions on the table.

Leader, Canadians who work in our tourism sector can only watch as other countries make plans to open to visitors. For example, the European Union intends to allow fully vaccinated Americans to travel there this summer. The Manitoba Lodges & Outfitters Association estimates that visitors from the United States make up 90 to 95% of their industry’s business. These businesses and many others like them are facing another lost summer tourism season with no criteria set out by the Trudeau government for reopening.

Leader, again, I’d like a direct answer. When do you expect this travel advisory will be changed? Is the Trudeau government aware of the devastating effect this will have on the tourism industry if the advisory remains in effect for the summer?

Senator Gold
[14:30]

The government is very aware of the impact on the tourism industry regarding visitors from abroad and, indeed, with regard to travel within Canada.

I was stopped at a checkpoint coming into Ontario because of the significant outbreaks here in the province. Provinces like Alberta are suffering the worst levels of infection of any jurisdiction in North America.

As for when the U.S. will change its advisory, I’m not in a position to answer.