Jennifer Coffman, owner of Truffle Pigs in Field says her restaurant and lodge have been hit hard by a closure of a section of the Trans-Canada Highway and the government discouraging Alberta residents from visiting. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jennifer Coffman

Jennifer Coffman, owner of Truffle Pigs in Field says her restaurant and lodge have been hit hard by a closure of a section of the Trans-Canada Highway and the government discouraging Alberta residents from visiting. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jennifer Coffman

‘Why we survive’: B.C. boundary towns struggle without Albertans during pandemic

Jennifer Coffman’s restaurant is located in the tiny community of Field, which relies on tourism

Jennifer Coffman didn’t expect to get hit with a double whammy at her restaurant in the tiny community of Field just west of the Alberta-British Columbia boundary this year.

Coffman has been running the Truffle Pigs Bistro and Lodge for the last 12 years.

Field, with a population of just under 200, sits along the Trans-Canada Highway, about 10 kilometres from the Alberta boundary, and relies pretty much on tourism.

COVID-19 seriously cut into international visits last year, so Coffman shut down for a couple of months. She expected things would improve this year. But things are tough again with closure of a nearby section of the Trans-Canada for construction this spring and fall, and Albertans being urged by the B.C. government not to travel to the province as the pandemic continues.

“I just keep going back to the Monty Python (movie scene) ‘Not dead yet’ and the guy’s got his arms and his legs all cut off,” Coffman said.

“I don’t know how many legs and arms that I can have cut off before I just close down, take a deep breath, and gear up when it’s time.”

Coffman said Albertans accounted for about 80 per cent of business last year and about 50 per cent before the pandemic.

“We rely on Calgarians so heavily, right? Especially through this. Albertans are a huge, huge part of why we survive,” Coffman said.

“Last summer was OK. I thought, ‘I’ve got to count my lucky stars. I can stay open.’ But … this second one is hard.”

A B.C. RCMP spokeswoman said technically the boundary isn’t closed and there won’t be any checkstops.

“There are no restrictions that preclude people from coming from Alberta,” said Staff Sgt. Janelle Shoihet.

“If people are coming from Alberta and travelling to a health region, then they’re required to stay within that health region and can go no farther.”

Shoihet said any travel within B.C. has to be deemed essential.

“Please do not come to our province. Stay in your own province unless it’s for essential travel.

“Stay home. We love you, but stay home.”

The picturesque resort town of Fernie in southeastern B.C. is less than an hour from the boundary with Alberta.

Brad Parsell, executive director of the Fernie Chamber of Commerce, says the community is reliant on Alberta visitors.

“Fernie might as well be in Alberta for all intents and purposes. We’re that reliant on Albertans, obviously in the tourism industry, but in our economy at large,” he said.

“It’s been incredibly challenging for the tourism industry to not have the welcome mat out to those folks at the moment.”

Parsell said visits from Alberta probably account for 70 to 80 per cent of total business.

“It’s a huge chunk … for sure,” Parsell said.

“This isn’t just about arbitrary numbers. These are people’s livelihoods and their lives.”

Business remains slow at the Fernie Hotel and Pub, but manager Alicia Dennis said part of that can be blamed on poor weather and restrictions on indoor dining.

She said visitors from Alberta and Saskatchewan were a saving grace last summer.

“We definitely noticed a huge spike in people from Saskatchewan and Alberta coming here for vacations. It was definitely one of our busiest summers I’ve seen so far.”

In Montana, the border closure between Canada and the United States is hurting the economy in Browning, a town on the Blackfeet Indian Reservation.

“A lot of our revenue for the local casino comes from folks in Lethbridge (Alta.), … because we are a border town right next to the Canadian border,” said spokesman James McNeely.

“I think the state of Montana has seen some impact from the lack of Canadian visitors. We don’t see those plates anymore.”

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism? Make a donation here.

border agency

Just Posted

A tent housing a mobile vaccination clinic. (Interior Health/Contributed)
Second dose vaccinations accelerating throughout region: Interior Health

To date, more than 675,000 doses have been administered throughout the region

Work has begun on the $10-million, 120-kilometre fibre-optic line from Playmor Junction to north of Nakusp. File photo
Work begins on Slocan Valley fibre-optic line

The $10-million, 120-kilometre fibre-optic line runs from Playmor Junction to north of Nakusp

Prince Charles Secondary School
School District 8 votes in favour of name change for Secondary School in Creston

In an act of reconciliation, a new name will be chosen for Prince Charles Secondary School

Okanagan Lake (File photo)
Thompson-Okanagan ready to welcome back tourists

The Thompson-Okanagan Tourism Association expects this summer to be a busy one

People line up to get their COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination centre, Thursday, June 10, 2021 in Montreal. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Vaccines, low COVID case counts increase Father’s Day hope, but risk is still there

Expert says people will have to do their own risk calculus before popping in on Papa

House Majority Whip James Clyburn, D-S.C., center left, reaches over to Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., joined by Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., center, and members of the Congressional Black Caucus as they celebrate the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act that creates a new federal holiday to commemorate June 19, 1865, when Union soldiers brought the news of freedom to enslaved Black people after the Civil War, at the Capitol in Washington, Thursday, June 17, 2021. It’s the first new federal holiday since Martin Luther King Jr. Day was created in 1983. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
Biden to sign bill making Juneteenth a federal holiday

New American stat marks the nation’s end of slavery

Athena and Venus, ready to ride. (Zoe Ducklow - Sooke News Mirror)
Goggling double-dog motorcycle sidecar brings smiles to B.C. commuters

Athena and Venus are all teeth and smiles from their Harley-Davidson sidecar

Kimberly Bussiere and other laid-off employees of Casino Nanaimo have launched a class-action lawsuit against the Great Canadian Gaming Corporation. (Chris Bush/News Bulletin)
B.C. casino workers laid off during pandemic launch class-action lawsuit

Notice of civil claim filed in Supreme Court of B.C. in Nanaimo against Great Canadian Gaming

A Photo from Sept. 2020, when First Nations and wild salmon advocates took to the streets in Campbell River to protest against open-pen fish farms in B.C.’s waters. On Dec. 17, federal fisheries minister Bernadette Jordan announced her decision to phase out 19 fish farms from Discovery Islands. Cermaq’s application to extend leases and transfer smolts was denied. (Marc Kitteringham/Campbell River Mirror)
Feds deny B.C.’s Discovery Island fish farm application to restock

Transfer of 1.5 million juvenile salmon, licence extension denied as farms phased out

John Kromhoff with some of the many birthday cards he received from ‘pretty near every place in the world’ after the family of the Langley centenarian let it be known that he wasn’t expecting many cards for his 100th birthday. (Special to Langley Advance Times)
Cards from all over the world flood in for B.C. man’s 100th birthday

An online invitation by his family produced a flood of cards to mark his 100th birthday

FILE – Nurse Iciar Bercian prepares a shot at a vaccine clinic for the homeless in Calgary, Alta., Wednesday, June 2, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
B.C. scientists to study effectiveness of COVID vaccines in people with HIV

People living with HIV often require higher doses of other vaccines

A 50-year-old woman lost control of her vehicle Tuesday, June 15, crashing through a West Vancouver school fence that surrounds playing children. (West Vancouver Police)
Driver ticketed for speeding near B.C. school crashes into playground fence days later

‘It’s an absolute miracle that nobody was injured,’ says Const. Kevin Goodmurphy

Most Read