The closure of the Canada-U.S. border because of COVID-19 has brought severe economic consequences to many Canadian border communities. However, there is one Ontario border city mayor who said he supports the continuing restrictions on cross-border travel, mainly as a result of how the U.S. has handled the pandemic. On Wednesday, Fort Erie Mayor Wayne Redekop said the situation in the United States is getting worse, and there seems to be no regard for the health and safety of others. As of Wednesday, the U.S. was the country with the highest number of COVID-19 cases and deaths globally.
Redekop also said that recently, Ontario has experienced “a bit of an uptick” in cases. He added that it doesn’t make sense to be lifting the border restrictions at this stage of the game. In their fifth renewal since the border was first closed in late March, the restrictions were prolonged until September 21 in August. Although trade is unaffected, the restrictions prohibit tourists and non-essential cross-border visits. Moreover, last week, a group of border city mayors advised the federal government through Canada’s Public Safety Minister Bill Blair to keep the Canada-U.S. border closed to non-essential travel until it is safer.
Redekop said Blair was very open to listening to them and devoted to continuing the dialogue and engaging them in the decisions made in the future. Redekop also said they told him that it would be useful if there were an established exit strategy. Redekop added that the closure had affected their community the same way it has done to all communities along the border. He claimed that they had been affected in terms of tourism, family restaurants, and retailers. Earlier, there was frequently healthy movement of people across that border as Fort Erie is right across the border from Buffalo and western New York.
Some mayors, like Windsor Mayor Drew Dilkens, prefer a month by month check-in to evaluate the situation at the border. On the other side, some like Sarnia Mayor Mike Bradley, support a full closure until next year. Besides, restaurant owner Scott Darvie, whose Sarnia, Ont. harbor-side pub enjoys the patronage of many American tourists typically, said he still agrees with the border closure. However, he’s lost a lot of business, as another full COVID-19 shutdown would make it even harder to survive. He said that if the government had to shut down again and go to takeout again, his staff would be unemployed, and going back to him is not a solution.
Redekop pointed out that it was essential to keep the gravity of the pandemic in perspective when talking about the economic side of COVID-19 precautions. He said they were talking about something that had killed almost 200,000 Americans and nearly 10,000 Canadians. He also stated that it had significant impacts on the health of people. He predicted the border closure could stretch into a year or more. Redekop also sympathized with people who went through the Depression and families whose lives were affected during the First World War and the Second World War. He concluded that though the economy, of course, is essential, health and safety should come first.