Thursday, September 16, 2021

Premier Horgan on cruise control as Cruise Industry related issues boil over in Alaska

Senator Lisa Murkowski 
delivered comments on
the cruise industry to the
SE Alaska conference 
gathering this week
(From SEAK conference
FB page
For the second day in a row, a dispatch from Alaska heralds some stormy seas ahead for the British Columbia cruise industry. 

This time with influential Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski outlining her plans to introduce new legislation that will provide for a permanent exemption from the Passenger Vessel Services Act for cruise ships transition between the Lower 48 state and Alaska.

The Senior Senator for the state provided the update on her plans for delegates to the Southeast Conference Annual meeting taking place in Haines, Alaska, noting she will introduce her proposal next week. 

The Southeast Conference is an umbrella organization of Alaskan communities that the City of Prince Rupert is member of. 

However, Prince Rupert Mayor Lee Brain has not attended the annual function in recent years owing to a number of reasons, ranging from conflicts to the UBCM conferecnce to COVID, his last public notes on the Alaska/Prince Rupert relationship coming back in September of 2019.

At this years gathering, Ms. Murkowski charted the course of action for the Alaska cruise industry for the delegates, observing how she wants to "make sure Alaskans do not have to worry about another government shutting down their business"

The Senators office released some of the key elements of her address on Wednesday, which included:

“While the PVSA is well-intentioned to protect American jobs and businesses, it had the unintended consequence of putting Alaskan businesses at the mercy of the Canadian government. It nearly wiped out Southeast Alaskan economies as we saw business after business ready to welcome visitors, but unable to because Canadians would not respond to our requests to allow foreign stops at their ports to meet the requirement of PVSA. 

We cannot let that happen again. 

Next week, I intend to introduce legislation that will permanently exempt Alaskan cruises carrying more than 1,000 passengers from the PVSA. This legislation will create jobs for American merchant mariners in the cruise industry, and to ensure foreign-built cruise ships do not compete with U.S.-built ships, this waiver will end once there is a U.S.-built cruise ship that carries more than 1,000 passengers. 

We do not want to compete with U.S. shipbuilders—that’s why this legislation ends once there is an American market. Bottom line, we need to reform the PVSA so that Alaskans’ ability to engage in commerce isn’t derailed by the government of another country.”

Hers is the second motion from the State that will be up for consideration by the American government in the weeks ahead. 

As we noted yesterday, Alaskan Congressman Don Young has his own Bill currently working its way through Congress, one which would also have a significant impact on the Canadian cruise industry should it make it to final approval.

As part of our notes from Wednesday, we observed of a conversation this week between Premier John Horgan and CKNW radio host Jas Johal, an exchange that is well worth a listen, with the topic of Mr. Young's bill making for one of the subjects for the Premier to review.

"It's unfortunate that we have these disruptions in that relationship, but I'm going to be continuing to put my shoulder down with those who want to work with us, and I believe Senator Murkowski is among those ... she was slated to have something to say today about Mr. Young's bill ... we'll be working with Ottawa through the ambassador in Washington to monitor those things. I've got more than enough to do  with between the ocean and the mountains and the Yukon and the 49th parallel, I'll let Canadian officials deal with this issue" -- Premier Horgan on CKWN earlier this week

While Mr. Horgan seemed to suggest that his conversation from the Spring with Senator Murkowski, indicated that all was well between British Columbia and Alaska for the most part; Ms. Murkowski's comments to the Southeast conference and her percolating legislation clearly identifies one area where the two politicians are not on the same page.

When the North Coast Cruise season returns in 2022, there may
be fewer vessels making their way to Prince Rupert if proposed
US legislation is adopted

The cruise industry themes still are clearly an irritant of urgent concern for the Americans and the Premier may want to take heed of the clear warning that is being delivered, one that the British Columbia industry is going to feel a significant impact from the legislation should it move forward.

The Premier may want to pick up a phone and touch base with both his friend the Senator and once the election dust settles on Monday,  whomever forms the government in Ottawa to express the British Columbia opinion on the issue, if the provincial government has one.

As well, the Premier and his cabinet may want to provide some guidance for those that are in the British Columbia cruise industry,  stakeholders who no doubt are feeling a little abandoned by the provincial government at the moment.

Likewise, MLA Jennifer Rice may want to explore how the local cruise industry participants view the American moves and see if those in the industry in Prince Rupert have any counsel for her to take back to the government as to how to the province should approach the issue.

For more on the Cruise industry on the North Coast see our archive page here.

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