PLATTSBURGH — Restrictions barring nonessential travel across the U.S.-Canada border have been extended for a seventh time, officials from both countries tweeted Monday.
Canadian Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Bill Blair and acting U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Chad Wolf announced the effective closure was extended another 30 days to Saturday, Nov. 21.
Multiple officials renewed a call for guidance and planning surrounding the border’s eventual resumption of normal cross-border traffic.
“What we need from both governments is a public strategy by which both sides acknowledge the metrics and data points that are going to see the reopening of the border,” Town of Plattsburgh Supervisor Michael Cashman told The Press-Republican.
“You can’t just ratchet up hoping that things are going to work out. You need to identify what the goal posts are for success.”
Cashman referenced New York state’s own regionally-phased reopening process, with which there has been frustration.
“However, the dashboards have been at least an indicator. Right now, there is nothing from the federal government or the Canadian government that gives us a sense of direction.”
North Country Chamber of Commerce President Garry Douglas noted that, though no substantial relaxation of the restrictions was anticipated before the end of the year, some semblance of planning was deserved.
“On this front, we welcome Secretary Wolf’s reference to ‘working closely with Canada and Mexico to identify safe criteria to ease the restrictions in the future and support our border communities,’” he said in a statement, referencing Wolf’s tweet.
“While non-specific, it at least looks toward a transition for the first time since March, and we will continue to seek serious consideration in the near-term of adjustments that would, for example, accommodate near-border property owners, some specific added forms of business travel in support of cross-border commerce and investment, and further accommodations for family.”
Cashman said many businesses had started to grapple with the reality that the border restrictions would likely remain in place well beyond the 30-day extensions, and were anticipating deep impacts going into early 2021.
“That’s not to say that there is not a growing concern that is compounded with months of struggle, anxiety and fear that has led to the loss of our Canadian customers.”
Douglas also spoke about the continuing impact on North Country businesses, noting in particular retail activity through the holidays.
“We can only encourage North Country residents to maintain their commitment to shopping and spending locally and push the computer mouse aside,” he continued.
“We are working with partners on fresh campaigns to encourage this. And we again call on Washington to finalize and approve a new COVID-19 relief bill that includes a second round of the (Paycheck Protection Program) forgivable loan program for these impacted small businesses.”
Douglas added that the chamber supports continued non-interference with cross-border shipping.
“The U.S.-Canadian economic partnership is about making things together to compete with the rest of the world, and our cross-border supply chains are essential to the North Country economy in particular and to the country at large.”
North Country Congresswoman Elise Stefanik (R-Schuylerville), who co-chairs the House of Representatives’ Northern Border Caucus, said she remained committed to working with DHS and the Canadian government to create a comprehensive plan for reopening the border and interim measures to ease hardships on border communities.
“Our northern border communities rely heavily on the U.S.-Canadian economic partnership, and I will continue to work diligently with local stakeholders and my colleagues to restore cross-border travel.”
Assemblyman D. Billy Jones (D-Chateaugay Lake) — co-chair of the Council of State Governments’ Eastern Regional Conference’s Canada-U.S. Relations Committee — described the announcement as devastating, and said the lack of guidance gave no hope to everyone impacted, including businesses, property owners, families and friends.
“I will continue to work with our federal partners to have guidance issued so that individuals can cross the border in a safe manner. We must allow for people to reconnect with their loved ones and to help our North Country businesses succeed.”