LILLEY: Time for Trudeau to change travel advice for Canadians

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So, the American border is finally about to open for Canadians, but can we actually go across the border while still adhering to government dictates?

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Despite the Trudeau government having opened our own border to American travellers and people from around the world, their official message to Canadians is still to avoid all non-essential travel.

This message of avoiding non-essential travel — and even avoiding travel within Canada lest we spread COVID from one community to another — was hammered home on the weekend by Health Minister Patty Hajdu. In an interview with Global Television, Hajdu spoke out against both domestic and out-of-country travel, apparently oblivious to the record of her own government.

This isn’t an attempt to score a partisan political point. The Trudeau Liberals have been sending mixed messages about travel for months now.

Whether we look at the election that just concluded or the prime minister’s trip to Tofino, this is a government that is all about travel inside Canada when it suits them. As for foreign travel, they’ve been jetting around the skies for months now.

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This week alone, we have Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland in Washington for meetings and Trade Minister Mary Ng in Sorrento, Italy. The prime minister is expected to travel to Europe again, this time for a G20 conference in Rome and then possibly for the climate change summit in Glasgow.

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All of these summits have the option of video conference participation. This is how world leaders met for much of the pandemic, and it worked.

True, in-person meetings and relationship building are very important, but so is a consistent message. Telling your citizens to stay home and not travel while the leadership of the government racks up frequent flyer points is a lesson in hypocrisy itself.

I’m not arguing that these government leaders should stay home; they should surely be going to these summits, but my parents should also be free to visit Florida without the inference that they are ignoring government health advice.

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It’s time for this message to change.

Let’s be clear: Global Affairs Canada doesn’t say you can’t leave, just that you shouldn’t. Buried beneath all of their recommendations to avoid non-essential travel is a statement that it’s up to you.

“The decision to travel is your choice, and you are responsible for your personal safety abroad. We take the safety and security of Canadians abroad very seriously and provide credible and timely information in our Travel Advice to enable you to make well-informed decisions regarding your travel abroad,” the government website states.

Travel of any type inherently comes with risk. Canadians should be treated as adults, warned of those risks, and then left to make their own choices without being badgered by bureaucrats in Ottawa. As it stands, many will look at the American border reopening and believe that it isn’t safe for them to head south.

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Given the community spread of COVID-19 in the United States is much higher than here in Canada, that thinking might be prudent. But there is no information provided on that front, no points of comparison provided — just a warning.

Wouldn’t it be helpful to know that cases per 100,000 population were lower in California and Florida than in Alberta and Saskatchewan? That California is lower than British Columbia?

Canadians should be given the straight goods and then allowed to chart their own course. Mine may take me to Florida.

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