Sparwood mayor David Wilks was in attendance at the street party to discuss potential changes to Centennial Square.

Closing the border not viable: Wilks

Sparwood Mayor David Wilks said shutting B.C. just wasn’t possible

Premier John Horgan has expressed doubt that any calls to limit inter-provincial travel is viable or legally possible, telling reporters on Thursday Jan 14. that the B.C Government was seeking advice on what options were available – if any.

“Canadians are free to travel within the borders of Canada,” he said.

Mayor of the District of Sparwood, David Wilks said that Horgan was correct on the difficulties facing the province when it came to any discussion on limiting travel across borders to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission within the community.

“Its extremely difficult to close the borders,” he said.

Wilks said that for a community like the Elk Valley right on the border with Alberta, a closed border wasn’t something that was viable, or something the community should want.

“We have so many people that come in daily to work at the coal mines. It would just be a nightmare to try and figure out who’s who in the zoo when they’re going back and forth … on a daily basis we have hundreds coming here to work at the four mines (from outside B.C.), whether it be employees or contractors.”

Wilks said he hoped that calmer heads would prevail and the borders would stay open. “I hope that people to do the right thing, which is if you don’t need to travel, don’t travel. Yeah, its quite appealing to come to a ski hill – I get it – but, if you don’t need to, in this point in time, don’t.”

Wilks said he believed any calls in the community to close off B.C. were unrealistic.

“The reality is that things just don’t work out that way.

Wilks said that on a municipal level, there was no appetite for pushing for closed borders in the region. “It’s certainly not within our jurisdiction anyways – it would certainly be something that would have to come from the province or the federal government.

“I think we all realize its a win and a lose – if it were to happen you could kiss the tourism for the next few months goodbye, which would mean significant challenges for Fernie, Invermere, Kimberley – and if you leave it open, you run the risk of having people coming to the province that may be infected with COVID-19.”

Wilks said the issue of borders kept coming up because of outbreaks in resort towns like Revelstoke and Big White, saying that community concern was valid, “but you have to look at the whole of the problem, and I don’t know if shutting down a border is a step you want to take.”

The manpower was simply unavailable to police any border restrictions too, said Wilks.

“(It’s) not even close to viable – we have an 18-person detachment in the Elk Valley who are responsible all the way from South Country to Elkford – and as I’ve tried to explain to people, just because COVID came doesn’t mean that every other aspect of policing stopped.

“It kept going. They still have everything else they need to deal with, and manning a border 24 hours a day until this is over is impossible.”

He said he believed the community would be past the challenges of the pandemic soon given the ongoing roll-out of the vaccine combined with compliance with public health orders would mean there would be no need to close borders at all.

“In a few months… we’ll be through this.”

READ MORE: B.C. considers provincial COVID-19 bubble as visitors come in
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