GRAND FORKS — Don’t expect a resumption of everyday travel between Canada and the United States anytime soon. That was the message recently conveyed by Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
Trudeau, in an interview with NBC’s “Meet the Press,” commended the coronavirus mitigation efforts of President Joe Biden, but also said he doesn’t plan to budge on restrictions of cross-border travel.
Trudeau said Biden’s COVID mitigation effort “aligns with where Canada has been for quite a while — grounded in science, grounded in protection of people as the best way to protect the economy and understanding that being there to support people is absolutely essential so that we can get through this as quickly as possible. … It’s great to see America re-engage.”
So Biden’s approach may be a move that appeals to Canada and its attitude toward reopening the border, but Trudeau said there are still too many factors to consider before travel between the countries can resume.
“Obviously, case counts, presence of variants, hospitalizations — all these things factor into the expert analysis,” Trudeau said. “... For now, we all need to keep safe, and that means keeping (travel restrictions) in place.”
It’s not good news for the many businesses in these parts that rely on cross-border travel. Whether it’s the resort owners in the Northwest Angle, the overall economy of the towns in the Lake of the Woods area, or the airport, retailers and restaurants in Grand Forks, the border closure has been a serious crimp on so much, and so many, over the past year.
Last month, three Republicans from Minnesota — U.S. Reps. Michelle Fischbach, Tom Emmer and Pete Stauber — petitioned Biden “to increase the number of essential traveler exceptions to current border restrictions and establish a plan, guided by public health metrics, upon which the United States-Canada land border will be reopened to nonessential travel.”
So far, no luck. But the effort should continue, since the coming months will be crucial to the ability of many businesses to remain solvent.
There are two distinct issues, related but almost separate.
First is the border closure itself, and its continued effect on the economy in northern North Dakota and Minnesota — and presumably on businesses in southern Manitoba and northwestern Ontario, which borders Minnesota. Second is the effect of the continued closure on the businesses located on the Northwest Angle, which U.S. residents can't reach by road without driving through Manitoba.
Trudeau’s recent comments notwithstanding, our hope is that politicians — Biden, Fischbach, Emmer, Stauber and others — will continue to nudge Canada about a resumption of travel between the nations.
In the meantime, they must engage in outright protest about the travel restrictions to the Northwest Angle.
As suggested in a column last week by the Grand Forks Herald’s Brad Dokken: An exception should be made for nonessential U.S. travelers to drive the 40 miles of road through Manitoba to reach their destination at the Angle. It’s a sparsely populated area, and Canada could impose harsh penalties on anyone caught straying from their stated travel plan.
One more summer of restrictions might be too much to overcome for many businesses in that area.
Politicians, don’t let up. An entire region’s economy is depending on you.
This other view is the opinion of the editorial board of our sister publication, the Grand Forks Herald.