Prime Minister Justin Trudeau addresses Canadians on the COVID-19 pandemic from Rideau Cottage in Ottawa on Friday, April 17, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau addresses Canadians on the COVID-19 pandemic from Rideau Cottage in Ottawa on Friday, April 17, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

Canada wants to extend U.S. travel ban; PM not yet ready to consider future plan

B.C. Premier John Horgan and Washington Gov. Jay Inslee are in touch regularly

Canada is not yet prepared to confront the challenges inherent in reopening the shared border with the United States, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Wednesday, stopping short of confirming that a ban on non-essential travel will be extended to June 21.

The federal government has asked to extend the current ban, which is currently set to expire May 21, and a favourable response is expected from Washington — but likely won’t come for a few more days, a source familiar with the ongoing discussions, but not authorized to talk about them publicly, told The Canadian Press. News of the request was first reported by the Globe and Mail.

“Right now, we’re making decisions for right now,” Trudeau said when asked about the possibility of keeping the border closed even after June 21, regardless of the wishes of the U.S., which is dealing with the worst COVID-19 outbreak in the world.

“Obviously, there are reflections on what next steps could be and might be in different situations and different progressions of COVID-19, but every step of the way in this unprecedented situation, we’re reacting to and responding to the realities we see now, and that’s where we will stay focused.”

One of those realities is also the starkest: more than a million active cases in the U.S. — 42 per cent of the world’s active caseload — and a death toll that was closing in Wednesday on 83,000 people, growing at a rate of more than 1,000 fatalities a day.

Another is the level of unbridled political urgency, much of it emanating from the White House and Republican-led state capitols, to reopen shuttered businesses and ease restrictions on personal mobility, often in defiance of the Trump administration’s own guidelines.

Not everyone is in a hurry. In New York, home to fully one-quarter of the U.S. COVID-19 cases, Gov. Andrew Cuomo still has his foot firmly on the brake. Reopenings there will be slow, with stringent monitoring of variables like hospital admissions and diagnostic and antibody testing to ensure the virus isn’t flaring back up.

“We must stay alert because we are still learning,” Cuomo warned as he rattled off a list of initial beliefs about COVID-19 that proved false, including that antibodies promised immunity and that children were largely impervious.

“What we thought we knew doesn’t always turn out to be true,” he said. “This virus has been ahead of us every step of the way in this country.”

Businesses, regional officials and other stakeholders in and around border communities are beginning to realize that their traditional model of counting on cross-border traffic may be at an end, said Laurie Trautman, director of the Border Policy Research Institute at Western Washington University in Bellingham, Wash.

“I think that’s just starting to kind of hit home,” Trautman said. “We’re no longer just sort of waiting out the end of this, but we’re actually going to need to start thinking in a whole new way.”

She cited the example of Vancouver International Airport, once one of Canada’s largest transborder travel hubs, which is now coming to terms with the fact that its annual passenger load was just cut in half, and likely won’t recover even after travel restrictions are lifted.

“They’re not weathering the storm, either. They’re completely shifting to a new model.”

Montana, which abuts Alberta, B.C. and Saskatchewan, has seen a steady decline in cases in recent weeks and allowed its stay-home measures to expire two weeks ago. Ohio, which shares Lake Erie with Ontario, reopened retail stores Tuesday and has allowed certain industries to resume operations. Pennsylvania, too, has begun easing restrictions, primarily in the northern regions.

In Minnesota, which borders northwest Ontario and Manitoba and currently has a total caseload of nearly 13,000 and more than 630 deaths, Gov. Tim Walz was expected to address residents Wednesday as the state’s current emergency declaration and stay-at-home restrictions approach their expiry dates.

But all of it is happening before a backdrop of dread.

Rick Bright — ousted last month as head of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority after clashing with the Trump administration over the president’s fondness for a now-discredited drug therapy — is expected to warn Congress on Thursday that without a national strategy, the U.S. could be facing a prolonged pandemic that will lead to more sickness, death and “the darkest winter in modern history,” CNN reported.

Kathryn Friedman, a law professor at the University at Buffalo and an expert on Canada-U.S. issues, said the conversation on both sides of the border among stakeholders, local and regional leaders and members of Congress has shifted.

“People are starting to turn from stabilizing the situation to thinking about recovery, easing restrictions and opening the border,” Friedman said.

For one thing, Canada and the U.S. will need to ensure their principles and regulations for lifting the restrictions were aligned, and it will be essential to ensure that regional and local leaders are in close contact.

“I think it would be very difficult if, for example, Canada had health and safety first as a guiding principle, and the U.S. was economic recovery — I think that would be a little more challenging.”

B.C. Premier John Horgan and Washington Gov. Jay Inslee are in touch regularly, she noted, while Cuomo and Ontario Premier Doug Ford are not.

“There are people who are very much advocating that New York and Quebec and Ontario at least share information on the stages and how they’re opening up and any concerns that they might have.”

Others have recommended adding a representative from Ford’s office to the task force on reopening that Cuomo established last month with fellow governors from New Jersey, Delaware, Rhode Island, Pennsylvania, Connecticut and Massachusetts.

James McCarten , The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

Coronavirus

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

People skate on a lake in a city park in Montreal, Sunday, January 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
The end of hugs: How COVID-19 has changed daily life a year after Canada’s 1st case

Today marks the one year anniversary of COVID-19 landing in Canada

A health-care worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a UHN COVID-19 vaccine clinic January 7, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Employers might be able to require COVID-19 vaccination from employees: B.C. lawyer

‘An employer must make the case’ using expert science, explains lawyer David Mardiros

Heavy flows of water pooled on Davis Road after a lead to a fire hydrant burst on Thursday Jan. 21. (Jim Tredwell photo)
Fire hydrant connection burst at Davis Road and Battie Drive

Crews worked well into the night on Thursday Jan. 21 to staunch the flow of water

A pedestrian was transported to hospital after being struck while crossing Roberts Street. (Cole Schisler photo)
Pedestrian struck crossing Roberts Street

The driver remained on scene and is cooperating with police

Emergency crews were called to a semi-truck crash along the Trans-Canada Highway at Oyster Sto’Lo Road on Friday, Jan. 22. (Cole Schisler/Black Press)
Semi truck crashes off the side of the highway in Ladysmith

Driver taken to hospital as precaution after single-vehicle crash Friday

Crews with Discovery Channel film as an Aggressive Towing driver moves a Grumman S2F Tracker aircraft around a 90-degree turn from its compound and onto the road on Saturday, Jan. 23, 2021. It was the “most difficult” part of the move for the airplane, one organizer said. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
VIDEO: Vintage military plane gets towed from Chilliwack to Greater Victoria

Grumman CP-121 Tracker’s eventual home the British Columbia Aviation Museum on Vancouver Island

Residents of the Cowichan Valley decorated more than 55 vehicles with anti-racist slogans for a car rally in support of Cowichan Tribes on Saturday, January 24. (Kevin Rothbauer/Citizen)
Dozens join anti-racism car rally and virtual panel in Cowichan Valley

Provincial ministry and BC Green caucus issue joint statement detailing concerns

Jesse Savidant, 31, is wanted by the RCMP after failing to appear in provincial court in Nanaimo in December. Police warn Savidant should be considered violent. (Photo Submitted)
Warrant out for man accused of stolen property offences across Vancouver Island

Jesse Savidant did not appear for court date in Nanaimo last month, say RCMP

Rolling seven-day average of cases by B.C. health authority to Jan. 21. Fraser Health in purple, Vancouver Coastal red, Interior Health orange, Northern Health green and Vancouver Island blue. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
2nd COVID vaccine doses on hold as B.C. delivery delayed again

New COVID-19 cases slowing in Fraser Health region

The Pacific Rim National Park Reserve is urging visitors to stay on designated trails after a hiker became injured in an unsanctioned area last week. (Westerly file photo)
Injured hiker rescued in Pacific Rim National Park Reserve

“Safety is everyone’s responsibility.”

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry talk about the next steps in B.C.’s COVID-19 Immunization Plan during a press conference at Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Friday, January 22, 2021. Two more cases of the COVID-19 strain first identified in South Africa have been diagnosed in British Columbia, bringing the total to three as of Jan. 16.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. now has three cases of South African COVID-19 variant, six of U.K. strain

Both variants are thought to spread faster than earlier strains

Rodney and Ekaterina Baker in an undated photo from social media. The couple has been ticketed and charged under the Yukon’s <em>Civil Emergency Measures Act</em> for breaking isolation requirements in order to sneak into a vaccine clinic and receive Moderna vaccine doses in Beaver Creek. (Facebook/Submitted)
Great Canadian Gaming CEO resigns after being accused of sneaking into Yukon for vaccine

Rod Baker and Ekaterina Baker were charged with two CEMA violations each

Police discovered a makeshift nightclub in a Vancouver apartment on Jan. 23, 2021, and say it wasn’t the first time this month officers have been called to the unit over social gathering concerns. (Phil McLachlan - Capital News)
Doorman of makeshift ‘booze-can’ in Vancouver apartment fined; police look to court order

This marks the fourth complaint about social gatherings inside the apartment in January

Local musician and artist Daisy Melville created a watercolour portrait of U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders from the recent American inauguration, and with help from her mom, is now selling t-shirts and more with funds going to the Comox Valley Food Bank. Image submitted
Island artist turns Sanders inauguration meme into art for good

All proceeds from the sale of shirts, sweaters and more will go to the Comox Valley Food Bank

Most Read