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Border confusion over fines for B.C. residents resolved now, minister says

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OTTAWA -

Emergency Preparedness Minister Bill Blair says confusion at the Canada-U.S. land border leading to some B.C. residents being ticketed for not presenting a negative PCR test after travelling south to retrieve essential supplies is resolved.

On Tuesday, Blair said he spoke with the president of the Canada Border Services Agency to re-clarify his order that offers a COVID-19 test exemption to fully vaccinated B.C. residents in border towns looking to pick up food, medicine or gas in the U.S. as a result of the devastating flooding in the province.

Some have reported they’ve been assigned a hefty fine for violating the Quarantine Act.

Asked whether the situation has been rectified, Blair said, “actually, yes it has.”

“That direction was given to the border services agencies, but clearly some clarification was required and that’s now been given,” he said.

Blair announced the waiving of the Act for those individuals over the weekend.

It accelerates an already planned expiration of the PCR test for Canadians travelling abroad for less than 72 hours, set to begin Nov. 30.

The Conservative Party issued a statement Tuesday urging action and an apology from the government.

“Conservatives are extremely concerned to hear reports that flood-affected B.C. residents are being charged for COVID-19 tests to cross the border to get essentials like gas and groceries,” as statement from MPs Ed Fast and Brad Vis states.

“The last thing that such residents who are impacted by floods and shortages on everything from food to gas need is a fine. That’s why Canada’s Conservatives are calling on the Trudeau Liberals to apologize to the residents who were fined for following the rules set out by the Emergency Preparedness Minister and to formally rescind these fines.”

Blair on Tuesday said the fines were issued by the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) and as such, the body is now reviewing individual cases.

Asked whether tickets handed out to Canadians will be rescinded, the minister said that will be up to PHAC.

The Conservatives and NDP have called for an emergency debate in the House of Commons to address the government’s response to the crisis that’s forced thousands to evacuate their homes.

Blair said there will need to be a “considerable investment” made to rebuild the most severely damaged areas of the province but wouldn’t assign a dollar figure to the task ahead.

The government approved a request for support from B.C. which has sent more than 500 troops to the region to help with ground and air initiatives.

“The resources that we’ve been able to provide, through the Canadian Armed Forces and other means, we’re prepared to scale up as required. We’re working really close with them,” said Blair.

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