Border leaders asking Ottawa to end land border testing

Canadian and American border community leaders call for Canadian federal government to lift the requirement for a negative PCR test to cross the border into Canada. 8 November 2021. (Zoom Screenshot)

Another call to end COVID testing requirements at Canadian border crossings, has been made by community leaders on both sides of the border.

Sarnia Mayor Mike Bradley was one of seven dignitaries who took part in a virtual news conference Monday morning. Bradley wants the measure requiring a negative PCR test to cross the border into Canada, lifted later this month.

“The only thing that’s going to be an impediment in the months ahead, unless the federal government changes the rule on November 21, is the testing. For a family of four, $1,000 to go across to share with your family — that’s the issue from my point of view,” said Bradley. “[November 21] is perfect timing for what goes on between the two countries, and it would give the federal government a chance to say ‘we’ve listened to people across the country.'”

Bradley said the medical officer of health for Canada, Dr. Theresa Tam, has made it clear that they’re looking at and reviewing the testing requirement.

“Which to me is Ottawa-speak for ‘we’re getting a lot of pressure, we’re not getting any validation that this is an effective form of testing, and it is financially very difficult on people crossing land borders.'”

New York Congressman Brian Higgins said Monday’s border opening should have happened six months ago, and that people don’t want to be constrained anymore.

“We will see a significant uptick in economic activity, but we’re still doing it with one hand tied behind our back with this redundant, unnecessary testing requirement,” said Higgins. “Pre-pandemic, 2019, 21 million Canadians traveled to the United States in that year, and they spent $21 billion — we have lost much of that during this pandemic.”

Hotel Association of Canada President and CEO Susie Grynol said the testing process is too complicated and expensive.

“I hear it every day from my members: this PCR test is blocking travel. Whether you are trying to visit family, or planning your Christmas holiday, or travelling for business, or a global account looking to book an international event, many are taking a pass on Canada.”

Niagara Falls, New York Mayor Robert Restaino expressed how retailers on both sides of the border will be impacted by the testing requirements.

“As long as we continue with this last wrinkle, we won’t see the full appreciation of just how much the communities on both sides really do count on one another.”

On the other side of the river, Niagara Falls, Ontario Mayor Jim Diodati said this problem seems to be induced by “us” and preventable by “us”.

“We can undo some of the harm that we’ve done by removing a redundant test that doesn’t make us any safer, it just adds costs and encumbers people’s visits.”

Windsor Mayor Drew Dilkens said we have to figure out how to deal with COVID-19 because it’s not going away.

“Keeping families apart, keeping business people away from one another in the interest of safety once they’re fully vaccinated, I think is no longer tolerable.”

A release from the group said “this unscientific approach must end given that random testing over the past few months has demonstrated there is no risk to ending the pre-testing.”

The conference was moderated by Frontier Duty Free Association Executive Director Barbara Barrett.