B.C. residents can cross into U.S. for fuel, essential supplies without COVID-19 test to return

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People buy gasoline for their vehicles at a Shell station in Vancouver on November 21. The devastating floods have cut fuel shipments to swathes of the province.Darryl Dyke/

Residents of British Columbia can enter the United States to purchase fuel and other essential supplies without presenting a negative COVID-19 test in order to re-enter Canada.

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Devastating floods have cut fuel shipments to areas of the province, forcing BC to order the rationing of gasoline. Some food supplies are also running low.

B.C. Public Safety Minister Mike Farnsworth told reporters on Saturday that he had asked Federal Emergency Preparedness Minister Bill Blair to expedite a move to waive tests that go to Canada for less than 72 hours in the United States by November 30. Do it.

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Ottawa will not make formal changes to that time frame, but the federal government has now made it clear that exemptions built into current travel restrictions allow cross-border travel if the purpose is to purchase necessities such as fuel, food or medicine.

Grocery store shelves cleared in B.C. as floods cut off major transportation routes

Flood-damaged Vancouver, Southern BC Railway expected to remain impassable for days

At a news conference on Sunday, Mr Blair said the federal government believes current rules exempt residents of border communities from Canada’s travel restrictions if they are purchasing essential items. But he warned anyone who might be thinking of sneaking in on a holiday trip.

“To be very clear, those exemptions do not apply to non-essential travel,” he said.

Mr Blair said stocks of gasoline, diesel, jet fuel and agricultural feed had been “temporarily stabilized”, but did not provide any details.

In a tweet posted Sunday afternoon, the Canada Border Services Agency confirmed that Ottawa will not impose testing or quarantine restrictions on any cross-border shopping trips for essential goods.

“Given the situation in BC, travelers and essential workers who must travel to or from the USA for essential reasons (food, fuel, supply chain) are exempted from testing and quarantine requirements. These exemptions do not apply to non-essential travel.

CBSA said it did not have an immediate response when asked whether it would increase the number of staff at cross-border in British Columbia.

The Trans Mountain pipeline, which supplies crude from Alberta to refineries on the West Coast, was shut down on November 14, as a precaution before an intense rain storm that began devastating landfall earlier this month. was done. Parts of the buried pipeline were exposed.

The company said on Sunday that it may restart the pipeline by the end of this week. However, it has said that resumption of crude oil flow depends on the accessibility of its equipment, weather conditions and there are no new problems.

In response to oil supply cuts, the B.C. government has imposed a 30-liter limit for purchases of fuel for non-essential vehicles in parts of the province, as well as temporary price controls for the fuel.

Those restrictions, contained in a ministerial order issued by Mr Farnsworth on Friday, prohibit wholesalers or retailers from raising their prices for fuel to a level that would increase their gross profit margin in the 90 days prior to 19 November. As a result, prices have barely bounced back in BC, despite a drop in pump supply.

BC floods will be Canada’s costliest natural disaster this year

Several provinces, including British Columbia, have existing laws that ban pricing. But the language in BC’s law is ambiguous, saying that the price cannot be “gross” higher than similar prices for “easily obtainable” products or services elsewhere. In contrast, the ministerial order is clearly specific in how it defines pricing, said Danes Rothschild, a partner at Borden Ladner Gervais LLP.

Despite those restrictions, the supply of gasoline in British Columbia is dwindling. Mr Farnsworth told reporters on Saturday that the province is negotiating a supply of fuel to be sent by barge from the United States, but those deliveries will take several days to go north.

Lynn Smith, a supervisor at the Peninsula Co-op Gas and Facility Center in the city of Comox on Vancouver Island, said so far customers have been treated well about rations.

“The customers are very smart. They know we are just doing our job,” she said. Things were “a little crazy” before rationing went into effect on Friday, with people scrambling to fill their tanks, but for the weekend During “Everyone has been really nice.”

But anger has flared elsewhere. Chris Simmons, a mechanic living in Coquitlam, was yelled at by another customer when he tried to get gas on Saturday afternoon. Mr Simmons was overturned at the pump, and another driver accused him of stealing his place.

“He started screaming,” said Mr Simmons. “He started coming to me.”

Mr Simmons walked away, not wanting any confrontation, especially with his young son in the car.

“I went to the next station and they had a lot of gas. There was a lineup, but there was tons of gas. It’s funny. Everyone’s me, me, me. It’s bringing out the worst in people.”

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