Canadian and US business groups urge governments to reopen border to fully vaccinated people

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Groups have called for a system to be created that proves one person has had both strokes, and called on authorities to propose timeframes for wider reopenings

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The head of a group that represents the executives of several of Canada’s largest companies said the COVID-19 crisis has reached a “pivotal moment” as the federal government’s refusal to facilitate travel to the United States has come down to take economic growth “hostage.” “

Goldy Hyder, President and CEO of the Business Council of Canada (BCC), made the comments after an extraordinary number of business lobbies and trade associations from Canada and the United States issued a joint statement which called on the governments of both countries to allow freer cross-border movement among those vaccinated.

“We’ve played Whack-a-Mole with COVID and allowed blocks to come and go for the past 15 months,” Hyder said in an interview on Tuesday. This, he added, has hurt Canadian and American companies competing globally with companies from countries that have not implemented the same virus containment measures.

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“We are at a watershed moment where we can… bring about growth that we know is being held hostage on the sidelines,” he said.

In a letter, the organizations called on the governments of Washington and Ottawa to ease travel restrictions that would allow people who have received two doses of the vaccine to cross the border without showing a negative test result. The groups also called for a system to be created that proves that one person has had both strokes, and called on authorities to propose timeframes for wider reopenings.

  1. Canada closed the border it shares with its largest trading partner to all non-essential travel in March 2020.

    Government begins to define measures to reopen Canada-U.S. Border

  2. The Peace Bridge and the Canadian border are seen from Buffalo, New York.

    Trudeau government begins work to reopen Canada-U.S. Border

Signatories include the BCC, the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, the United States Chamber of Commerce, the Retail Council of Canada, the Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business, Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters, and the National Retail Federation.

The rare show of force of groups that sometimes jostle for attention shows just how frustration with travel restrictions has built up among executives who simultaneously try to navigate a pandemic, the aftermath of an epic recession, and the rapid transition to a digital economy. The situation is particularly difficult for Canadian companies, as they often have more customers in the United States than in the country.

The organizations argued that now is the time to ease restrictions, as more than half of Americans and more than three-fifths of Canadians have received at least one injection. Canada’s largest trading partner is the United States; in 2020, 73% of goods and services went south.

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“The statement refers to non-essential travel, but in many cases we are talking about business travel that is absolutely essential to the future prospects of companies and workers who are trying to make ends meet,” said John Murphy. , senior vice president. President of the United States Chamber of Commerce.

As of March 2020, the Canadian and US governments have limited cross-border travel to essential travel, renewing the policy on the 21st of each month. However, the application of the rules has been arbitrary and a headache, especially for companies doing cross-border business, said Dennis Darby, president and CEO of the Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters industry group.

This has been particularly distressing for its members, said Darby, who normally commute regularly to conduct business operations. With the uncertainties at the border, it can be difficult for an American technician to travel to a factory in Ontario to service the equipment, as that person may need to quarantine themselves for two weeks before doing work that takes a few days.

It also goes the other way, he said, noting that companies have to weigh whether it is “worth it” and the cost, for example, of sending engineers to the United States who might need to be there. quarantined and then again on their return.

The retail sector, supported during the summer months by foreign credit cards, would also benefit from a cautious reopening, said Marc Fortin, Quebec president of the Retail Council of Canada. Stores, he said, need to know now whether to increase inventory, hire staff and get money from the bank. “What we are asking is to harmonize the measures for Canada and the United States to ensure that always, in a secure manner, we can actually accommodate American tourists.”

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However, after the letter was dropped, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made it clear at a noon press conference Tuesday that the government would not make any concessions to the current measures for at least a few days or weeks.

“I think we all understand that we want to get back to normal. We want to start traveling again, ”Trudeau told reporters. “But it’s very clear that even though one dose has allowed us to significantly protect Canadians… it’s still incomplete protection and we need people to receive the full two doses of their vaccines.”

Reuters, however, reported that the United States would announce on Tuesday that the White House would establish task forces with Canada, Mexico, the United Kingdom and the EU to set up plans for a safe reopening.

Hyder, the chairman of the BCC, said easing restrictions on those vaccinated could be a good move the government should implement as soon as possible. “We believe this will not only create economic activity and social activity, but will encourage more people to get vaccinated earlier with their two vaccines. “

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In-depth reporting on The Logic’s innovation economy, presented in partnership with the Financial Post.

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