Good news for Northwest Angle, but problems remain on Minnesota’s northern border

There was good news for the 120 year-round residents of Minnesota’s Northwest Angle last Friday when the Canadian government announced that residents driving through Canada to the United States will be exempt from pre- and post-arrival COVID-19 testing.

The Star Tribune reports:

The action ends more than a year’s pandemic restrictions that caused significant hardship to residents and businesses. It was part of a broader Canadian government announcement that it is extending some quarantine measures and travel restrictions.

Since the border was closed to nonessential travelers on March 21 of last year, Canadian officials had not yielded to pressure from U.S. officials who asked for more exceptions for those who can enter the country, including those just passing through on their way back to American soil.

But this isn’t the end of problems on Minnesota’s northern border. The Canada-U.S. border remains closed to “non-essential” travel and will remain so until at least the middle of June although there are indications that it may continue through the summer at least.

WCCO reported recently:

Many businesses in International Falls rely on tourist dollars coming in from both sides.

As a business owner on the border, Mike Jerulle depends on local dollars. But he also depends on money coming in from another country.

“There are quite a few businesses that have already closed. There are only three or four restaurants that are still open in International Falls,” Jerulle said. “Twenty-percent of our business at the Chocolate Moose are Canadians who come across the border to eat at our restaurant.”

We may be willing to countenance some economic damage for a good medical reason. But the travel site One Mile at a Time argues:

At this point it’s hard to argue that this is anything other than political, given that it’s not like Canada or the United States are taking a zero-tolerance approach to coronavirus (like what we see in New Zealand)

It seems that Canada is just doing everything it can to discourage all kinds of travel regardless of risk, and the US travel ban is part of that; for example, even someone traveling from New Zealand to Canada would have to go into a hotel quarantine and take three separate tests.

Ultimately these reciprocal agreements often stay in place because neither side wants to lift restrictions without it being reciprocal.

It is interesting to me that Canadians are allowed to visit the US by air, while the inverse isn’t true, despite the US doing significantly better with vaccinations and case numbers.

They conclude: “ultimately this seems politically motivated.” Some economic damage for a positive medical outcome is a trade off many would be willing to make. But when the damage is being inflicted for purposes of political posturing, that calculation changes.

John Phelan is an economist at the Center of the American Experiment.