Let’s be honest – a system that is not applied fairly and allows for people to easily circumvent the government policies and outcomes it was designed to promote is not a system. It is a taxation lottery that is being unfairly applied.

Canadians and others that are travelling for a variety of reasons during the pandemic, some legitimate/some not, are finding alternative routes to avoid jail time, better know as Canada’s Quarantine Hotels.

Essentially, air travellers need to [1]

  • get a COVID test prior to entry into Canada
  • stay for 3 days at a Government approved jail …. er … um … hotel
  • get another test while at the hotel
  • wait for the results
  • quarantine at home for the remainder of the 14 days if the test is negative, or 
  • remain at the hotel until they test negative

The cost for the initial 3 day stay is $2000.

That is quite the disincentive to travel.

However some people can’t avoid it for a variety of reasons, many of which are legitimate (care of relatives abroad, property ownership, legal, banking, health issues with cold weather, essential work which is extraordinary) and which cannot be done remotely. Albeit, several of these the government deems discretionary travel and therefore are to be avoided.

For example, occasional but essential workers are being denied exemption by CBSA simply because they don’t need to travel back and forth across the border every day. At the same time, CEOs of major corporations[2][3] are being given a pass simply because of the economic clout they wield within the Canadian economy. 

This is both unfair and discriminatory. 

Governments have certain tools at their disposal to impact public behaviour including legislation, sanctions, regulations, taxes and subsidies. However, in the public interest those tools need to be administered in the widest interest of public good that is transparent, traceable, and without undue bias towards any particular demographic or special interest group. 

Essentially, what the Government should be doing is calling what this Order truly is.

It is a travel levy

As such there is a far more effective mechanism towards enforcement that would allow for essential, semi-discretionary travel, but at the same time curb the number of cross border trips.

  • Charge $3000 per person (2 years and older) for leaving the country;
  • Reduce the levy by $1000 immediately if a recent negative COVID test is supplied upon exit from Canada;

  • Charge $5000 per person (2 years and older) for re-entering the country;
  • Reduce the levy by $1000 immediately if a recent negative test is supplied upon entry to Canada;
  • Refund $1000 if a negative test is completed after 3 days of quarantine;
  • Refund an additional $1000 if a negative test is completed after 14 days of quarantine;
  • Fine $10,000 and/or disqualification from re-entry to Canada for a 2 year period if no tests, positive or negative, are submitted (post-marked) within 21 days after re-entry
  • Fines and levys are doubled for day travellers or those that are staying in Canada less than 21 days;

  • Exempt workers based on the current rules for non-discretionary travel would remain exempt from the levy;

  • Expand the definition for non-discretionary travel for compassionate reasons;

  • Publish reports on the number of levys and fines imposed along with the associated COVID results from testing; and

  • There should be a review mechanism so that if a person qualifies, but has not received their letter of exemption from the Ministry in a timely manner, that the Ministry can refund the full value of the levy upon acceptance of the reason for travel and proof of a negative covid test.

No need for hotels. CBSA can collect the levys at the point of entry (any entry). It would be fairly and transparently be applied to everyone regardless of mode of transportation.  And there is a dispute mechanism for addressing unique cases, exceptional circumstances, or use cases previously unconsidered in advance of when the levy came into force.

I don’t know why the Government keeps insisting on the promotion of policies that are full of holes in the hopes that people won’t find a way to weasel around them. China and other countries have certainly proved that quarantine facilities work in reducing spread (civil right issues not withstanding). But only if applied across all modes of entry and not just one. 

Otherwise its just a lottery based on who can find the most creative solutions to circumventing a policy that has more holes than a block of swiss cheese.

— Kevin Feenan

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