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On Dec.30th federal Ministers Dominic Leblanc and Bill Blair appeared before the cameras to announce that “coming soon” would be a requirement that all passengers arriving into Canada from international gateways would be required to produce evidence of a Covid Negative PCR test dated not more than 72 hours prior to their departure in order to travel to Canada.

On New Year’s Eve, Transport Minister Marc Garneau decreed “indeed this is so-details to follow”.

Of course, even if the airlines and travel industry had been consulted prior to dropping the hammer (which we weren’t) most businesses had shut down only scheduled to re-open on Jan.4th.

The “details” that followed put January 7th as the implementation day.

In various interviews with the media, federal officials indicated that in the case of passengers departing from countries where these gold standard 72 hour turnaround PCR tests were “unavailable” then the impacted passengers would on arrival in Canada, be relocated to a federal facility for a mandatory 14 day quarantine.

Unfortunately, the airlines having been given no direction as to whether “unavailable” meant there was no existing facility able to conduct such tests, or whether 500 passengers all lining up in front of the Kumquat 7-11 and Infirmary had been advised “we can only manage 5 tests per day”, took a rather firm position.

*No negative PCR test – No Fly*

Simple as that.

There was no way any airline was going to put their minimum wage counter staff in a 3rd World country in the position of having to interpret The Bible of St Justin.

So now we have Johnny, Suzy and the kids sitting in Kumquat with no way home.

Admittedly Johnny & Suzy, going against the advice of a variety of Do Not Travel advisories, opted to escape Winter for a couple of weeks fully prepared for a 14 day quarantine in their own home upon return.

And knew or should have known, that there were more than the normal risks associated with Christmas travel at this time.

Nonetheless they “presumed” that as federal regulators had provided a clear path for their federally regulated airline to sell tickets from Canada to Kumquat with all applicable federal and provincial taxes having been paid on the ticket, permission to travel- advisories notwithstanding – was at the very least implied.

I can hardly wait until a 1st year law student opts to closely examine section 6 (1) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms which states *every citizen of Canada has the right to enter, remain in and leave Canada*

As a nation, we have spent copious amounts of time and money focused on obtaining a vaccine and from all accounts, we’re not exactly doing a stellar job in getting jabs into the arms of folks.

With no less a figure than Dr. Theresa Tam having stated a few weeks back that transmission of Covid on aircraft was *extremely rare* - should we “perhaps” not focus on ramping up the vaccine efforts?

As well, with the success of Calgary Airport’s Rapid Testing on Arrival – should we not be expanding this program throughout the country?

And relegating the use of pre-boarding of international inbounds to visitors/non residents?


Although Minister Garneau stuck to his guns with a January 7th implementation, there was it seems……. a little fallout.

A number of passengers turned up for their flights back to Canada, and you guessed it, they’d either been unable to get said PCR test *or* unable to get the results in time *or* there were reports of “problems” with the lab itself.

All by the way reported by passengers who in addition to scrambling to comply and in some cases cutting their prepaid vacations short, had paid in some cases up to $350 USD *per person* for tests that just didn’t work out as planned.

Of course the biggest impact came on January 8th when it was announced by Westjet ( likely to be followed by others) that the roadblocks put forth were impassable and as such, flights from Canada to Caribbean and southern destinations would be axed with immediate effect.

And then *lo and behold* on the morning of January 9th Les Feds, cognizant that there were “issues” regarding the procurement of the required tests in Jamaica, back-peddled and have delayed the required Jamaica tests until January 18th.

With the possibility I suspect of other countries enduring similar complications.

One thing I figured out a long time ago was if you’re going to design a new and improved guitar, it helps if you actually discuss the design with guitarists *before* you spend a lot of time ,effort and money putting the damn thing into production.

That way- if you hit a fork in the road you’ve got the opportunity to pick the right path and not risk putting an instrument out on the market that no one can play.

Maybe next time- and there will be a next time- Parliament Hill Wizards might think about consulting the very industry that operates the program before entrenching a hastily made unilateral decision into what is already a confusing enough situation?

Adios until next time.

Dave Heron

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