FEDS CAN’T HAVE IT BOTH WAYS
With talk of the of the CEWS and CERS support programs coming to an end, the federal government can’t also keep the Canada-US border closed, says the Tourism Industry Association of Canada. “It can’t be both ways; either continue to support tourism businesses… or start reopening the border so that businesses can get back to work,” says TIAC president Beth Potter.
To that end, TIAC has launched a new campaign to call on the federal government to plan for reopening the border, which has been closed to non-essential traffic for nearly 15 months due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The campaign focuses on getting Canadian decision-makers to acknowledge the urgent need and to commit to a date to open the border “before the summer tourism season is lost.”
The association has also posted a web page that directs people to write to their member of parliament to tell them that they need to “do their part” to safely re-open the border (https://www.openuscanborder.ca/)
While TIAC has long advocated for a federal re-opening plan, the new campaign is the latest in a series of increasingly strident calls for the government to bust Canada’s border blues.
That sentiment was further amplified on Wednesday by the Canadian Snowbird Association, which reiterated its call for the end of the mandatory hotel quarantine program for fully vaccinated Canadian residents returning to Canada
TIAC’s Potter says, “Medical experts are telling us that we are winning the battle with COVID. With vaccinations rising and case numbers going down, we must now pivot to more forward-thinking policies, and talk about safely reopening the border, ending the extreme financial crush that has flattened the tourism industry and devastated the tourism economy in Canada. As Canada and the US return to normal, we must prepare to open the border quickly and safely, and restart our tourism economy.”
Potter cited “a powerful case” for doing so made recently by the Expert Advisory Panel to the federal government on COVID-19 Testing and Screening, which stated that travel policy should be revamped to reflect the significant progress made on the pandemic, including scrapping the mandatory hotel quarantine system.
“The land border closure was a blunt interment to help stop the pandemic, but the fact that people can fly to the US to vacation without quarantining there, but a very limited number of essential workers can cross the border never made sense, says Potter, adding,
“There is a lack of urgency on the Canadian side for planning for the inevitable reopening of the border, which has been out-of-step with US officials and the Biden administration. President Biden formally asked for a border reopening plan immediately after taking office, and so far, Canada has been slow to make any public progress.”
Public calls for the reopening have been steadily growing on both sides of the border in recent weeks: Congressional leaders, including Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer have called for the border to open now; Liberal MPs Wayne Easter and Nathaniel Erskine-Smith have added their voices, and several prominent editorialists have called for the Canadian government to start the planning process.
Potter says TIAC is asking the government to take urgent action on the issue, so that Canadian tourism operators and businesses have the ability to plan for rehiring staff, training, and marketing.
She adds that many businesses rely on advance bookings and without a clear plan for reopening and a commitment to when it will happen, people are uncertain as to whether or not they can book activities in Canada – at any date in the future.
“The decision to close the border was made in a time of crisis, and now that we are starting to come through on the other side, we must have a plan in place to reopen the border, to kickstart the Canadian tourism economy. The health and safety of Canadians continues to be of the utmost importance – which is why we need guidance from all levels of government on a plan,” she says.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Tuesday, Canada will indeed be taking steps to ease restrictions at the border for fully vaccinated travellers – but he did not commit to a date, and offered only the barest hint of hope that things could change by June 21.
“We are looking at how we can ease the rules, based on science,” for would-be travellers who have had a complete course of a COVID-19 vaccine, Trudeau said in French during a news conference in Ottawa.
“We will have more announcements to make regarding measures that may be eased for those who have had both doses in the weeks to come.”
First published at Travel Industry Today