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New B.C. travel rules a 'logistical nightmare': expert

One B.C. political analyst says the new COVID-19 travel rules aimed at stopping travel outside health regions is not only difficult to prove but could create more problems for the provincial government.

Confusion continues to swirl around the new COVID-19 travel restrictions announced by the British Columbia government on Monday. 

During the April 19 press conference, Premier John Horgan said they'll be using periodic roadblocks to limit travel to try and stop the spread of the virus.  

“They will be random and there will be a fine if you’re travelling outside your area without a legitimate reason,” said Horgan. “This will be a random audit to ensure people are following the guidelines.”  

Today (April 20), Mike Farnworth, the province's minister of public safety and solicitor general, clarified what the premier said, noting there will be no random, individual stops.  

"Most British Columbians know they have a part to play in helping to curb the spread of COVID-19 and I am sure they will adhere to the new rules and stay in their region," Farnworth says in a written statement. 

“Our intention is to discourage recreational and leisure travel, not punish people, and we are not interested in disrupting commuters and people going about their lives." 

Farnworth adds the goal is to discourage recreational travel and says the periodic roadblock checks would be set up at locations like BC Ferries terminals or along major highways leading out of Metro Vancouver. 

According to a political analyst, this would be a “logistical nightmare” to do.  

Hamish Telford, an associate professor of political science at the University of the Fraser Valley, tells Glacier Media this will be challenging to do in locations like Metro Vancouver.  

“You’ve got cities like New Westminster, Burnaby and Surrey, all in Fraser Health and Vancouver and Coast Health... how they’re going to monitor and regulate traffic over that border just seems hugely problematic,” says Telford.  

He also points out there will be problems defining what is considered essential travel.  

“We are going to need on Friday, at the very least, a lot more specificity as to what constitutes essential travel,” says Telford. “People have all sorts of other reasons for travelling, which they may well deem to be essential and we enter into a grey area.”  

BC Ferries and the tourism industry will be calling people to check their reasons for travel, according to Horgan, and to make sure their travel is essential and not for leisure.  

“Depending on how this is rolled out, I think it is almost certainly going to end up in court,” says Telford. “The constitutionality of this will be challenged on a variety of grounds and so the government might be just buying themselves a bigger headache than they’ve got already.”

New signage is also expected to be posted along the Alberta border to remind travellers coming from outside the province that unless it is essentially business, they should not be here.  

“We have a constitution here that protects our mobility rights and we have done a terrible job at policing our borders, both the provincial border with Alberta and the border with the United States with the federal jurisdiction,” says Telford.  

More details are expected on Friday about the new rules, including how people can prove travel is essential.