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.”