The delay in reopening the border between the U.S. and Canada to discretionary travel has no justification now that we are well along in vaccination programs. The restrictions have become bogged down in bureaucratic inertia.
Both countries closed the shared 5,525-mile border to discretionary travel in March 2020 when the COVID-19 pandemic was beginning to catch fire. This was of course months before we had effective vaccines, and the restrictions were a sound public health step to slow the spread of the virus.
But that’s simply no longer the case. Canada, after its vaccination rate crept above that of the United States, announced recently that it will begin allowing discretionary travel from the U.S. to Canada for those who are fully vaccinated beginning on Aug. 9.
But the Biden administration is moving slowly. American officials have announced that nonessential travel for the fully vaccinated will begin, at the earliest, on Aug. 21.
Both governments should work to put the border restrictions behind us as swiftly as possible.
This is the crucial summer travel season. Every day the border remains closed delays the battered travel industry’s recovery. The U.S. Travel Association estimates the industry loses $1.5 billion in potential travel spending every month.
The cost is especially high in border states like North Dakota and Minnesota. Canadian visitors spent $195 million in Minnesota and $139 million in North Dakota in 2017, the most recent figures available.
The border restrictions have been especially burdensome for residents who live near the border and in normal circumstances cross the boundary frequently for work or to visit family and friends.
A case in point is Minnesota’s Northwest Angle. Authorities announced in late May that those crossing the border there would be exempt from pre- and post-arrival COVID-19 testing — good news, but a mere baby step toward normalization.
The Northwest Angle is almost an inland island, bordered on three sides by Canada and accessible from Minnesota only by crossing some 40 miles of Lake of the Woods. Driving to the Angle requires traveling through about 40 miles of Manitoba, part of it gravel.
So for those living in areas like the Northwest Angle, the closed border has been more than an inconvenience.
Yet, as a travel representative has observed, there’s no difference between a fully vaccinated American or Canadian.
The border has remained open to essential travel, but testing requirements continue to make crossing a hassle.
That’s no trivial matter for state’s like Minnesota and North Dakota. Canada is the main export market for both states. North Dakota exports $5.9 billion in goods and $291 million in services annually to Canada; Minnesota exports $4.7 billion in goods and $1 billion in services every year.
North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum, joined by the governors of Montana and Idaho and the premiers of Alberta and Saskatchewan, has urged President Biden and Premier Trudeau to open the border immediately. Although not a signatory of the letter, Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz has expressed frustration in the delayed border reopening.
It’s time to stop dithering and end the ban on nonessential travel; reopen the border between these two countries that have such good relations and shared interests.
This other view is the opinion of the editorial board of our sister publication, the Forum of Fargo-Moorhead.