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North Country News

Indications Increase For Potential Border Re-Opening

Flags of the U.S. and Canada
Pat Bradley/WAMC
/
Flags of the U.S. and Canada

Calls are intensifying for the border between the U.S and Canada to re-open. Federal authorities on both sides appear to be moving toward a possible phased in reopening soon.

The northern border closed in March 2020 and has remained closed except to essential travelers. With COVID vaccination rates increasing and cases decreasing, calls for reopening the border especially from U.S. entities have been growing louder.

Politico and Bloomberg News are reporting that there are indications within the Canadian government that an easing of border restrictions could occur as soon as this month.

North Country Chamber President and CEO Garry Douglas says the reports are consistent with what they are hearing. 

“I think part of it certainly is in the run up to the G-7 summit which starts on Friday which will include the first face-to-face meeting between Prime Minister Trudeau and President Biden," Douglas said. "So certainly I’m sure that has fed into the process as has the growing chorus of strong voices not only on the U.S. side but now very much on the Canadian side that it’s time to have a plan, it’s time to show that you’re charting a way forward.”

Douglas adds that a move to reopen the border would be a significant shift especially by Canadian authorities. 

“Certainly the vaccination effort has really started to pick up speed in Canada," he said. "So I think that’s making them feel a little more comfortable. But then I don’t think anybody can dismiss the stepped up advocacy by Senator Schumer, by our members of Congress including Elise Stefanik and Brian Higgins, and many others has had to be listened to. You do not have the majority leader of the United States Senate come to your border not once but twice and say we need you to step up your planning and your activities on this. It’s having an effect.”

During the weekly COVID-19 briefing, Vermont Department of Financial Regulation Commissioner Michael Pieciak reported that cases in Quebec have fallen over 30 percent this week.  Governor Phil Scott then expressed optimism that border rules will ease soon. 

“I think it’s good news when the Prime Minister, Trudeau, has talked about getting to a certain point," Scott said. "It’s either 70 or 75 percent. It looks like then things will be relaxing. And they’ve made terrific gains particularly in Quebec. They’re exceeding expectations. And so it’s all good news hopefully. This means that they will negotiate something between the U.S. government and the Canadian government and be able to open up the borders as soon as possible.”

Town of Plattsburgh Supervisor Michael Cashman looks forward to seeing Canadians traveling south of the border but says there must be a smart and healthy reopening plan. 

“I certainly am an advocate for some type of vaccine passport," Cashman said. "I know that there are some people that are against that. For the health and safety of our communities and for each other I think that is the strongest and easiest way to implement something is to have some type of international vaccine passport.”   

Vermont’s Congressional delegation sent a letter to the Biden Administration this week asking it to engage with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau “to work towards the appropriate milestones that would allow for the safe reopening of the border.”

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