State Senator Calls On NY Governor And President Biden To Take Action To Reopen Northern Border
State and local lawmakers in northern New York are calling on Governor Kathy Hochul to use her new status to push the Biden administration to reopen the U.S.-Canada border.
The border closed to non-essential travelers in March 2020 and the closure was extended monthly. In August, Canadian officials reopened their land crossings to nonessential travelers if certain COVID-19 protocols are met. But the U.S. side has remain closed.
The continuing refusal to allow Canadian travelers to cross land borders is exasperating officials on the American side.
“If the Canadians can figure out how to open the border to us how is it that the United States can’t figure out a way to open the border to them?”
45th District Republican state Senator Dan Stec says it should not be complicated to create a plan to reopen the border. He says the region has now seen the loss of a second summer tourism season and is entering the fall foliage and holiday seasons.
"The summer season is over and we’ve lost that. But what shortly follows on the heels of that? Columbus Day weekend," says Stec. "Anyone that’s familiar with the Adirondacks at all knows that that’s when everybody likes to visit the Adirondacks. We’ve got beautiful fall colors. The weather is nice and the area is bustling with activity. Simultaneously that weekend is the Canadian Thanksgiving holiday. It’s a long weekend for both counties on both sides of the border that historically has seen a tremendous amount of cross border traffic. There’s economic activity that’s generated.”
Senator Stec, whose district spans from Queensbury to the border, wrote to Democratic Governor Kathy Hochul and President Joe Biden, both Democrats. He notes that Governor Hocul, from western New York, is “undoubtedly keenly aware of the distinctive and critically important US/Canadian relationship.” Stec hopes the Hochul will push the federal administration to reopen the border.
“The New York governor and one of the busiest border crossings on that Canadian border is in a position to say ‘Mr. President as we try to right the ship in New York, as we try to put this bad chapter behind us, you know this embarrassment to our party, what’s high on my list Mr. President? We need to figure out a way to reopen that border responsibly and quickly.’ She’s in a position to deliver that message that Governor Cuomo couldn’t because of his long tenure and all his other problems. He wasn’t asking for any favors on the border. Whatever favors he was using up in Washington had nothing to do with the Canadian border. But she’s in a position to say hey clean slate. What can the federal government do to help?”
In his letter to President Biden, Senator Stec says there was relief and gratitude when Canada reopened its border. But he is dismayed that the U.S. did not reciprocate.
“No plan for the border’s inexcusable. It’s not professional. It does not bode well for confidence in governance our inability to come up with a ‘this the plan for the Canadian border," Senator Stec says. "A few months ago it was the Canadians that were skittish and we were talking about unilaterally reopening the border. Now here we find ourselves in mid-September and it’s flip-flopped where the Canadians are the ones that are letting vaccinated New Yorkers in. But the United States has not reciprocated that. And again that’s no way to treat your best friend on the international scene.”
Republican Clinton County Legislature Chair Mark Henry says all things considered, the region’s economy is in fairly good shape.
“The Clinton County economy is doing fairly well. Our sales taxes are up. Our revenues are up. Some of that has to do with the planning of this legislature and the budget that we built over the last year. However I think it would be naive to think that it wouldn’t be much better if we weren’t able to get the Canadian citizens down here to visit. The numbers are okay. We think they would have been better," Henry notes. "On the issue of the Canadian border we in Clinton County need this border open. We need clarity. We need a plan. We need it done safely. We know that’s not going to happen tomorrow. But give us a plan.”
U.S. officials will determine whether to keep the land borders closed for another month on September 21st.