Ontario Progressive Conservative Party leader Doug Ford is calling for the border between the United States and Canada to remain closed to prevent the spread of COVID-19 into Canada, but Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., is calling on the Biden administration to develop a "transparent, bilateral, and public" plan to reopen the border between the two countries.
Meanwhile, any opening of the border appears to be far off, despite the growing number of people in the United States that are becoming fully vaccinated, reports The New York Times.
"Any opening of the border, a return back to normal, is a very, very long way off," Aaron Ettinger, a professor of political science at Carleton University specializing in relations between the United States and Canada said. "That doesn't mean there shouldn't be some sort of advance planning about what a reopening would look like. The last thing we want is to be in a good enough situation where we can think about it, but have absolutely no idea of how to do it.:
The Canadian government has been rolling over and expanding the Cabinet order concerning border relations that have been in place since last March, taking action on the same day the United States extends its rules.
Ford argues, people coming across the border are a major source of COVID infections, but Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he asked Ford which groups he would like removed from the list of nonessential travelers still allowed to enter the country and said Ford "didn't get back" with him.
Schumer, meanwhile, this week called on the State and Homeland Security departments to coordinate with the Canadian government for a plan to reopen the nations' border.
The New York Democrat, after the announcement New York will begin lifting many COVID restrictions May 19, pointed out American and Canadian stakeholders have gotten frustrated with the month-by-month closure extensions, and said the border must be opened to avoid the loss of hundreds of millions of dollars over another summer season.
For example, he said, the Thousand Island-St. Lawrence Seaway region's economy is deeply integrated with the Canadian economy, with more than 2.3 million Canadian travelers coming into the United States through ports of entry in Jefferson and St. Lawrence counties, and the continued closure is contributing to significant revenue loss and logistical issues.
"The deep, long-standing social and economic bonds that communities in the Northern Country and Canada share were abruptly severed last March to deal with the profound public health challenge that COVID presented, and since then residents and businesses up and down the Northern Border have been eagerly waiting for the day when rates would be low and vaccinations available so that restrictions could be relaxed and logically lifted," Schumer said.
The closures were understandable in the height and at the beginning of the pandemic, but more is known about the virus now, he added.
"Since vaccination rates have risen, overall rates are steadily falling, and New York is ready to reopen, based on the data, it is time to take the first steps towards reopening the Northern Border to non-essential travel," he said.
"That is why I am calling on Secretaries [Antony] Blinken and [Alejandro] Mayorkas to coordinate with their Canadian counterparts ASAP and come up with a plan — based on science, data, and common sense — that will allow for staged and steady border travel and reunite families and friends and jumpstart local economies. I'm also asking that they take appropriate measures to ease the burden shared by thousands of stakeholders across the Northern Border."
Schumer added, a rule prohibiting Canadian and American boaters from crossing the border by water also penalizes boaters, and urged Blinken and Mayorkas to provide support to Customs and Border Protection officers and others at the northern border.
Talks between the two nations are usually limited toward coordinating the timing of the extensions, but commercial travelers have not been blocked by either country or required to quarantine, reports The Times.
However, with some exemptions, all travelers coming into Canada must produce 3 negative test results and quarantine for 2 weeks and air travelers must remain in a government-designated hotel for up to 3 nights while awaiting the results of tests they get upon arrival.
"The border has only gotten harder and harder," Ettinger said. "Once things return to something resembling normal, I would expect to see significant cross-border technical coordination in order to avoid the kind of disaster at the border that we've seen at different points in the last 20 years."
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