Sarnia Mayor Mike Bradley hopes the federal government is able to negotiate at least another 30-day border restriction with the U.S., adding that he believes it would be ideal to maintain restrictions until key border states and provinces are able to bring COVID-19 under control.
“I think it would be foolish to reopen that border until Michigan and Ontario and New York state have control of COVID-19 completely,” Bradley said Tuesday.
“We should keep it closed for non-essential traffic until at least [another] 30 days. Personally, I’d prefer longer, since we’ve shut down our own communities basically until at least July 1.”
As of Tuesday, Ontario has approximately 29,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19. Michigan has logged more than 48,000 cases, while New York has more than 338,000 confirmed cases, largely due to the 186,000 cases logged in New York City alone.
Bradley delivered his remarks on the same day that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau hinted during a daily briefing that Canada is in no rush to ease travel restrictions between Canada and the U.S., potentially allowing non-essential travel to resume uninhibited.
Canada reached its agreement with the U.S. in March to restrict border crossings to essential travel only — including for health-care professionals and truck drivers. That agreement was later extended in April by 30 days, and is currently set to expire on May 21.
“We’re going to be very, very careful about reopening any international travel, including in the United States, before we feel that it is time,” said Trudeau, during Tuesday’s briefing.
As a border city mayor, Bradley acknowledged that Sarnia has in the past welcomed visitors from the U.S., as well as encouraged Canadians to visit their neighbours to the south.
“We don’t welcome it now,” he said, adding that his concerns aren’t necessarily with steps taken by officials in bordering U.S. states to combat COVID-19, but with other U.S. states where “they don’t have those restrictions … where they’re actually moving so quickly and rapidly to open up their restaurants and their businesses and not being that concerned about the health consequences of doing so.”
We should keep it closed for non-essential traffic at least [another] 30 days.– Sarnia Mayor Mike Bradley
States like Michigan continue to enforce physical distancing and stay-at-home rules — and have yet to formally allow all businesses and communities to reopen. However, states like Georgia have begun allowing businesses like tattoo parlours, bowling alleys, and even restaurants and movie theatres to welcome customers on a limited basis.
Bradley said local residents, federal and provincial Sarnia-Lambton officials, as well as other Canadian border city mayors — like Windsor Mayor Drew Dilkens — agree that the border should remain restricted.
“I think it’s very courageous of the border city mayors and their communities to say no, we don’t want to open early,” Bradley said. “It’s nothing to do with the administration in the United States, it’s all to do with the protection of our people.”
During a media conference on Tuesday, Dilkens addressed a question about the reopening of the border, saying that “we’re probably a ways away from the realistic full opening of the border, where people are going to be able to get gas, groceries and go have dinner or go shopping.”
He said he has no “advanced information” to share, adding that he expects more information to be released “within a week or so.”
For his part, NDP Windsor West MP Brian Masse used a digital sitting of Parliament on Tuesday to ask Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland about any conversations taking place to loosen restrictions.
“With the premiers of B.C., Quebec and Ontario responding against the opening of the border at this time, will the restrictions be extended? Or is the prime minister discussing changing the restrictions?” Masse asked Freeland
In response, Freeland said Canadian officials “are in very close conversation with the Americans about next steps,” later stating that she hasn’t spoken about changing restrictions, merely that there are conversations taking place.
WATCH | MP Brian Masse and Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland discuss border restriction:
“We are taking a very cautious approach to the health and safety of Canadians,” Freeland said. “A very collaborative discussion is happening.”
Freeland added that “current arrangements are working extremely well.”
When pressed by Masse on the subject of border cities receiving additional personal protective equipment and financial assistant to deal with the “loosening of current border restrictions being discussed,” Freeland responded by stating that she has not said that loosening restrictions is being discussed.
“Let me be very clear that is [Masse’s] assertion,” Freeland said.