Prime Minister Justin Trudeau addresses Canadians on the COVID-19 pandemic from Rideau Cottage in Ottawa on Friday, April 17, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau addresses Canadians on the COVID-19 pandemic from Rideau Cottage in Ottawa on Friday, April 17, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

Canada wants to extend U.S. travel ban; PM not yet ready to consider future plan

B.C. Premier John Horgan and Washington Gov. Jay Inslee are in touch regularly

Canada is not yet prepared to confront the challenges inherent in reopening the shared border with the United States, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Wednesday, stopping short of confirming that a ban on non-essential travel will be extended to June 21.

The federal government has asked to extend the current ban, which is currently set to expire May 21, and a favourable response is expected from Washington — but likely won’t come for a few more days, a source familiar with the ongoing discussions, but not authorized to talk about them publicly, told The Canadian Press. News of the request was first reported by the Globe and Mail.

“Right now, we’re making decisions for right now,” Trudeau said when asked about the possibility of keeping the border closed even after June 21, regardless of the wishes of the U.S., which is dealing with the worst COVID-19 outbreak in the world.

“Obviously, there are reflections on what next steps could be and might be in different situations and different progressions of COVID-19, but every step of the way in this unprecedented situation, we’re reacting to and responding to the realities we see now, and that’s where we will stay focused.”

One of those realities is also the starkest: more than a million active cases in the U.S. — 42 per cent of the world’s active caseload — and a death toll that was closing in Wednesday on 83,000 people, growing at a rate of more than 1,000 fatalities a day.

Another is the level of unbridled political urgency, much of it emanating from the White House and Republican-led state capitols, to reopen shuttered businesses and ease restrictions on personal mobility, often in defiance of the Trump administration’s own guidelines.

Not everyone is in a hurry. In New York, home to fully one-quarter of the U.S. COVID-19 cases, Gov. Andrew Cuomo still has his foot firmly on the brake. Reopenings there will be slow, with stringent monitoring of variables like hospital admissions and diagnostic and antibody testing to ensure the virus isn’t flaring back up.

“We must stay alert because we are still learning,” Cuomo warned as he rattled off a list of initial beliefs about COVID-19 that proved false, including that antibodies promised immunity and that children were largely impervious.

“What we thought we knew doesn’t always turn out to be true,” he said. “This virus has been ahead of us every step of the way in this country.”

Businesses, regional officials and other stakeholders in and around border communities are beginning to realize that their traditional model of counting on cross-border traffic may be at an end, said Laurie Trautman, director of the Border Policy Research Institute at Western Washington University in Bellingham, Wash.

“I think that’s just starting to kind of hit home,” Trautman said. “We’re no longer just sort of waiting out the end of this, but we’re actually going to need to start thinking in a whole new way.”

She cited the example of Vancouver International Airport, once one of Canada’s largest transborder travel hubs, which is now coming to terms with the fact that its annual passenger load was just cut in half, and likely won’t recover even after travel restrictions are lifted.

“They’re not weathering the storm, either. They’re completely shifting to a new model.”

Montana, which abuts Alberta, B.C. and Saskatchewan, has seen a steady decline in cases in recent weeks and allowed its stay-home measures to expire two weeks ago. Ohio, which shares Lake Erie with Ontario, reopened retail stores Tuesday and has allowed certain industries to resume operations. Pennsylvania, too, has begun easing restrictions, primarily in the northern regions.

In Minnesota, which borders northwest Ontario and Manitoba and currently has a total caseload of nearly 13,000 and more than 630 deaths, Gov. Tim Walz was expected to address residents Wednesday as the state’s current emergency declaration and stay-at-home restrictions approach their expiry dates.

But all of it is happening before a backdrop of dread.

Rick Bright — ousted last month as head of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority after clashing with the Trump administration over the president’s fondness for a now-discredited drug therapy — is expected to warn Congress on Thursday that without a national strategy, the U.S. could be facing a prolonged pandemic that will lead to more sickness, death and “the darkest winter in modern history,” CNN reported.

Kathryn Friedman, a law professor at the University at Buffalo and an expert on Canada-U.S. issues, said the conversation on both sides of the border among stakeholders, local and regional leaders and members of Congress has shifted.

“People are starting to turn from stabilizing the situation to thinking about recovery, easing restrictions and opening the border,” Friedman said.

For one thing, Canada and the U.S. will need to ensure their principles and regulations for lifting the restrictions were aligned, and it will be essential to ensure that regional and local leaders are in close contact.

“I think it would be very difficult if, for example, Canada had health and safety first as a guiding principle, and the U.S. was economic recovery — I think that would be a little more challenging.”

B.C. Premier John Horgan and Washington Gov. Jay Inslee are in touch regularly, she noted, while Cuomo and Ontario Premier Doug Ford are not.

“There are people who are very much advocating that New York and Quebec and Ontario at least share information on the stages and how they’re opening up and any concerns that they might have.”

Others have recommended adding a representative from Ford’s office to the task force on reopening that Cuomo established last month with fellow governors from New Jersey, Delaware, Rhode Island, Pennsylvania, Connecticut and Massachusetts.

James McCarten , The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

Coronavirus

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The COVID-19 outbreak at the two Coastal GasLink workforce lodges has officially been declared over. (Lakes District News file photo)
COVID-19 outbreak at Coastal GasLink worksites declared over

In total, 56 cases were associated with the outbreak in the Burns Lake and Nechako LHAs

Brett Alexander Jones is wanted on several warrants province-wide, in connection with multiple charges. Jan. 21, 2021. Kitimat RCMP photo
Kitimat RCMP searching for man wanted on several warrants province-wide

Jones is described as a five-foot 10-inches Caucasian man, with blond hair and blue eyes.

That’s Houston physician Dr. Stefanie Steel receiving her first dose of the Pfizer vaccine Jan. 19, 2021 from RN nurse manager Cindy Cockle. (Northern Health photo)
First Houston vaccinations take place

Long term care residents, health care workers on list

Administering naloxone to a person experiencing a benzo-related overdose event won’t help. Naloxone is used to neutralize opioids. (Jenna Hauck/The Progress file photo)
Northern Health warning drug users of potential benzo contamination

The drug does not respond to naloxone, and is being included in street drugs

Toronto Public Health nurse Lalaine Agarin sets up for mass vaccination clinic in Toronto, Jan. 17, 2021. B.C. is set to to begin its large-scale immunization program for the general public starting in April. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
B.C.’s COVID-19 mass vaccinations expected to start in April

Clinics to immunize four million people by September

The District of Saanich’s communications team decided to take part in a viral trend on Thursday and photoshopped U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders into a staff meeting photo. (District of Saanich/Twitter)
Bernie Sanders makes guest appearance municipal staff meeting in B.C.

Vancouver Island firefighters jump on viral trend of photoshopped U.S. senator

School District 57 headquarters in Prince George. (Mark Nielsen, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter)
Prince George school district settles with sexual abuse victim

Terms were part of an out-of-court settlement reached with Michael Bruneau, nearly four years after he filed a lawsuit

Surrey provincial court. (File photo: Tom Zytaruk)
New COVID-19 protocols set for provincial courthouses

The new rules were issued on Jan. 21, and took effect immediately

Police in Vancouver looking for male suspect who allegedly spat and attacked a store manager for not wearing a mask, at 7-Eleven near Alma Street and West 10th Avenue just before noon on Dec. 17, 2020. (Vancouver police handout)
VIDEO: Man spits on 7-Eleven manager over mask rule, sparking Vancouver police probe

‘Unfortunately, the store manager sustained a cut to his head during the assault’

The Vancouver-based SAR team successfully rescued two lost snowshoers off of the west side of Tim Jones Peak in the early morning of Monday, Jan. 19. (North Shore Rescue photo)
B.C.’s busiest SAR team raises alarm after 2021 begins with fatality, multiple rescues

‘People beyond ski resort areas of Seymour, Grouse, and Cypress go without cell reception,’ SAR warns

Police are searching for an alleged sex offender, Nicole Edwards, who they say has not returned to her Vancouver halfway house. (Police handout)
Police hunt for woman charged in ‘horrific’ assault who failed to return to Surrey halfway house

Call 911 immediately if you see alleged sex offender Nicole Edwards, police say

A screenshot from a local Instagram account video. The account appeared to be frequented by Mission students, and showed violent videos of students assaulting and bullying other students.
Parents, former students describe ‘culture of bullying’ in Mission school district

Nearly two dozen voices come forward speaking of abuse haunting the hallways in Mission, B.C.

Joe Biden, then the U.S. vice-president, and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau take their seats at the start of the First Ministers and National Indigenous Leaders meeting in Ottawa, Friday, Dec. 9, 2016. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Trudeau, Biden to talk today as death of Keystone XL reverberates in Canada

President Joe Biden opposed the Keystone XL expansion as vice-president under Barack Obama

Most Read