The government of Canada has once again postponed the reopening of the Canada-U.S. land border until at least July 21, at which point 487 days will have passed since the last time non-essential land travel was permitted between the two countries. Many U.S. politicians strongly disagreed with this latest prolongation, describing it as “overly cautious, unfounded in science and unclear.” They are not wrong.
Indeed, there has been much confusion, and now frustration, surrounding this issue. Previously, the Trudeau government stated it would contemplate reopening borders once 75% of Canadians had received one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and 20% were fully vaccinated. This threshold was met days before the previous 30-day prohibition period was set to expire on June 21, yet there was no grand reopening. Instead, a new golden rule was put in place: A minimum of 75% of Canadians must be double-dosed before Canada contemplates lifting its border restrictions. Considering the current pace of vaccination and the rate of vaccine shipments, this new threshold might not be met until the start of September.
In addition to being overly cautious, maintaining the non-essential travel restrictions is costly for Canadians. Every year, our southern neighbours make 24 million trips to Canada, of which nearly 70% are via land borders. And so, for every day the Canada-US border remains closed, we are deprived of tens of thousands of travellers patronizing our businesses. Indeed, these tourists help support the 1.9 million jobs in tourism-dependent industries in Canada.
What’s more, American vacationers spend a whopping $11.3 billion each year when they visit our country. Canada thus stands to lose up to $30.8 million for each day the border remains closed—that’s over $2 billion from June 21 through to the end of August. Government revenues will suffer as well, by $31.36 for every $100 not spent by US visitors.
While closing the border last year may have been justified given our scientific knowledge at the time, and may have even provided an extra layer of protection against the virus, we must now re-evaluate the necessity of the remaining restrictions. The government has to establish a clear plan for the reopening of the Canada-U.S. border, and stick to it. With over 75% of Canadians having received at least one dose, and 53% of eligible Americans fully vaccinated, the risks are shrinking every day. And so is our patience.
Links of interest
We just want a clear plan on border, say industry reps (National Post, July 6, 2021)
We just want a clear plan on the border (Interview with Maria Lily Shaw, Global Radio, July 7, 2021)