Speaking to GlobalNews on Sunday, 19JUN, just ahead of Ottawa’s new travel rules taking effect Monday, 20JUN, Transport MInister Omar Alghabra denied the federal government dropped the ball in anticipating and preparing for the return to travel.
Alghabra cited “many economists” who had “predicted travel will not come back” until as long away as 2025. He acknowledged the “surge we’re witnessing today” in travel and new schools of thought that full travel industry recovery may occur by 2023 or even late this year, with “leisure travel exceeding” 2019 levels. But he called it a “new phenomenon” and denied that government officials could have anticipated the chaos facing pax at Canada’s major airports.
“I know it’s frustrating”
The minister reiterated measures, like boosting staffing, that the government has already taken in response to the airport crisis.
But he was pressed also on the ArriveCAN app, with GlobalNews citing a statement by a union for CBSA officers that they had been forced to become “technical support for people who are struggling” to correctly fill out all the fields of the app. In addition, mayors of Canada’s border towns, as well as other travel industry representatives, have urged the federal government to drop its use altogether.
Ottawa has repeatedly said lack of ArriveCAN use is one of the biggest factors slowing down the arrivals process at Canada’s borders and airports, pushing blame back on travellers.
While continuing to call the ArriveCAN app “a valuable tool” to verify the vaccination status of arrivals into Canada, which remains a requirement even under modified vaccine requirements that took effect 20JUN, Canada’s Transport Minister for the first time hinted changes were in the works.
Alghabra noted the government was “working with” Health Canada, airport, airline and unions to help make compliance with the ArriveCAN app requirement smoother, including providing Public Health Agency of Canada staff to some airport arrivals halls to assist pax.
He also said the government was looking to “improve the experience” of the ArriveCAN app, although he provided no details how the government was going to change the app that will apparently remain a requirement as long as a vaccine mandate for incoming cross-border travellers remains in place.