Actions urged to reopen border

Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-Schuylerville, speaks to members of the press after an election for House Republican Conference chair on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. Alex Wong/Getty Images/TNS

PLATTSBURGH — U.S. Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-Schuylerville, is calling on the Biden administration to begin unilaterally easing restrictions on non-essential travel across the U.S.-Canada border if a bilateral plan is not in place before June 21, the effective closure’s current expiration date.

“Our communities cannot afford any further delay or acquiescence — unilateral action to begin reopening the border appears necessary,” she wrote in a letter to U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas Thursday.

Stefanik pointed to inconsistencies within the current restrictions, including how Canadians have been able to fly into the U.S. throughout the pandemic and get vaccinated while in the U.S. even as fully vaccinated Americans have been unable to quarantine on their Canadian properties, and how Canada has been more relaxed about letting family members reunite.

“As co-chair of the (House) Northern Border Caucus, I have worked with my colleagues across the aisle, our Canadian counterparts, the North Country Chamber of Commerce and essentially anyone who will listen over the past several months to establish a bilateral, metrics-based plan to reopen the northern border, but the Canadian government continues to lack the urgency this situation demands,” she said in a statement.

“Enough is enough — the United States needs to do what’s best for the American people and small businesses and reopen the northern border.”

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau wants to see 75% of Canadians vaccinated before the restrictions are lifted, and said earlier this week that the country was on the right path.

“But we’ll make our decisions based on the interests of Canadians and not based on what other countries want.”

The North Country Chamber of Commerce echoed Stefanik’s call, with President Garry Douglas saying it was time to consider taking some unilateral steps if necessary.

He noted the chamber’s continued calls for a binational commitment to a reopening plan, including interim steps that would have allowed families to reunite and both property owners and businesspeople to cross.

“With indications that the Canadian government is not yet open to true planning or to some reasonable first steps, it is time to consider taking some unilateral steps and putting the possibility out there,” Douglas said.

Douglas added that Canadians who would be allowed to cross would still have to comply with Canada’s quarantine requirements when they go back, “but would be able to plan to do so or in many cases would access their summer homes, campers and boats and stay for the summer.” He added that they would also be allowed to fly to other places in the U.S. from airports such as Plattsburgh, as they have continued to fly from airports in Canada.

“We hope DHS will seriously consider the possibilities of beginning some unilateral steps, while also continuing to hope that the Canadian government will see the urgency of this border situation in the broad context of the special U.S.-Canadian social and economic relationship.”

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(7) comments

613chuck

A dose of reality: Ontario's border with New York State will not be opening on 21 June. Nor should it.

The reason is simple. Ontario won't be fully re-opened to Ontarians by 21 June, or even 21 July.

The timeline on covid-19.ontario.ca and ontario.ca/page/reopening-ontario, while highly conditional, is fairly clear. At the present time, much like one does not simply walk into Mordor, one does not walk into a Brockville barber shop (closed), a Hamilton hardware store (kerb service only) or any of a long list of commercial businesses. These restrictions will be relaxed a bit on Friday, but July will be almost over before Ontarians can even consider taking a dip in an indoor pool. Even if every target were met (including 25% percent fully vaccinated - we're currently at 6%) that "third stage" of reopening is still more than six weeks away - and it's just an intermediate step which still carries restrictions.

With restrictions still in place on intrastate/intraprovincial commerce, there's no point even discussing interstate or international borders. Furthermore, I see no reason why anyone in Jefferson, Lewis, St. Lawrence, Clinton, Franklin or Essex would have an issue with our closing our southern borders, given their support for candidates which ran on a platform of closing America's own southern borders, taking little kids away from parents and throwing them in jail.

Ultimately, everything's at the mercy of the vaccination effort. That effort, in turn, is at the mercy of vaccine supply. Until that changes, no amount of complaining on the part of Ms. Stefanik or anyone else is going to change reality.

Canada is a sovereign nation. It will determine its own policy to secure its southern border, same as anyone else.

adrhan

If you open it, we will come.

Thank you.

zeitgeist

Leave Canada alone!

As recently as two weeks ago, the province of Ontario was in lockdown. Cases were soaring and healthcare facilities were dangerously overwhelmed. Many of the lockdown mandates necessarily continue, today. Particularly concerning are the delayed acquisition and roll out of vaccines across Canada. How things develop on the vaccine front in the weeks and months ahead will guide Trudeau's re-opening schedule.

Meanwhile, the U.S. behaves like a nagging neighbor, pushy, self-interested, seemingly insensitive to its "friend's" challenges, and disrespectful of its re-opening hesitancy at this time.

Hang in there Trudeau. Don't succumb to the unfriendly pressure. A healthy Canada is good for Canada, the north country, the U.S., and the world.

Stefanik and other U.S. politicians should focus on America's problem, alarmingly growing day by day, and a threat to our economic recovery-- widespread vaccine hesitancy.

KRobbins

I think that’s what Russia did in Georgia is unilaterally re-opened the border. Not surprising to see it as a Republican solution then.

KRobbins

I don’t understand how we unilaterally open the border. None of this makes any sense to me. That includes the actions of the Canadians as well.

hermit thrush

likewise, in domestic politics democrats should not wait around for republicans to do anything in a bipartisan way.

Eagle24

Congrats on Stefanik's announcement of first pregnancy.... maybe this will keep her in her district versus chasing bogus votes in Ga. or advancing her career in DC...

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