U.S. lawmaker wants Biden to take 'unilateral action' on reopening border with Canada
OTTAWA -- An American congressman says he has proposed to the White House to unilaterally reopen the border to Canadians as Ottawa announced another month extension of the restrictions that prohibit non-essential travel.
In an interview on CTV’s Question Period airing Sunday, Democratic Rep. Brian Higgins said he addressed the move to take “unilateral action” to allow entry to those fully vaccinated with top officials this week but layers of bureaucratic red tape are preventing swift action.
“[There’s] too much bureaucracy, no one seems to be making a decision on this. I’ve spoken with the highest levels of the Biden administration, they have to bring it back to a task force. There are two people that can make this happen, the President of the United States Joe Biden, the Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau,” he said.
“When you close the border at the middle of a second tourist season, hurting both Canadians and Americans, without any vision about what the plan over the next 30 days is to do everything they can to open that border either incrementally or more comprehensively, that is a terrible disservice.”
On Friday, Public Safety Minister Bill Blair tweeted out the news stating that more information on the government’s phased quarantine and testing approach for fully vaccinated travellers would be unveiled on Monday.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau later that day said Canada must meet the threshold of 75 per cent of the population vaccinated with one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and 20 per cent fully vaccinated before loosening measures.
The restrictions at the Canada-U.S. border that prohibit discretionary travel, but exempt the flow of trade and commerce, as well as vital health-care workers, such as nurses who live and work on opposite sides of the border, have been in place since March 2020.
Higgins said the move is a “slap in the face” to separated family members after officials announced weeks ago a travel exemption for NHL hockey players to cross the border to compete in the Stanley Cup playoffs.
“The National Hockey League gets an exemption not based on the science or the data, based on the Stanley Cup playoff schedule, that’s arbitrary,” he said. “It’s a slap in the face to families that have been separated for 15 months, for people who have not been able to visit, enjoy, maintain their properties for the past 15 months and it’s not good as it relates to U.S.-Canadian relations.”
In a separate interview on CTV’s Question Period, President and CEO of the Business Council of Canada Goldy Hyder said the extension is “extremely disappointing” and shows a lack of preparation.
“This agreement is being renewed every month, this can’t just sneak up on anybody. We knew this day was going to come where more and more people are going to be vaccinated and they’re going to want to know what the benefits of that vaccination are,” he said. “The use of phrases like ‘we’re working on’ is very concerning and it erodes public confidence and it erodes business confidence.”
Shopify’s President Harley Finkelstein tweeted out his thoughts on the situation, stating “This is the wrong decision. The second order effects of this for Canada are massive. We need to open the border for fully vaccinated travellers immediately.”
Higgins also underscored the business case for reopening specifically in his Buffalo, Niagara Falls district.
“The Buffalo Niagara International Airport, 30 per cent of the people that use it are Canadian, Canadians spend $15 million a year on health-care services in Buffalo, in western New York. We have two professional sports franchises, the Buffalo Bills and the Buffalo Sabres, 20 to 25 per cent of the fan base, the ticket-buying base lives in southern Ontario,” he said.
“Every aspect of our economy in Buffalo, in western New York, and our life quality, is tied to Ontario.”