Minnesota still hostage to Canada’s paranoia over reopening border post pandemic

The U.S. and Canada famously share the longest undefended border in the world, more than 5,000 miles long. But you’d never know it by the aggressive posture Canada continues to exhibit in enforcing a strict 15-month lockdown of the border with no end in sight due to never-ending concerns over Covid.

Even many of the European nations Canada now more closely resembles than its American neighbor have loosened up on international travel restrictions, according to the New York Times.

Americans can now vacation in France, where the one-dose vaccination rate is 49 percent, according to the nonprofit Our World in Data; they can also go to Spain, where the rate is 51 percent, and Greece, 45 percent. But, with very limited exceptions, they still cannot travel to Canada, which, according to one source — the University of Oxford — is leading all countries globally in single-dose vaccination rates.

In mid-June, to the frustration of many on both sides of the border, Canada announced it was extending restrictions on nonessential travel until at least July 21. The ban includes travel via land, air and sea. It will ease entry requirements for fully vaccinated Canadians, permanent residents and some eligible foreign nationals on July 5.

President Biden and Canadian Prime Minister Trudeau were supposed to discuss the standoff at the recent G-7 summit in England. But like so much of the confab, nothing came of it.

The Canadian government has cited the spread of more transmissible variants of Covid-19, such as the Delta variant, as a reason for its caution.

“Even a fully vaccinated individual can pass on Covid-19 to someone who is not vaccinated,” Mr. Trudeau said on June 18, addressing the reasons for the extension of the border closure. “That means we have to really make sure that not only people who are fully vaccinated can travel, but the communities to which they will return are not at risk, because even though they are protected from hospitalization, the people around them might not be.”

So on it goes, an open-ended shutdown except for a handful of residents of the Northwest Angle allowed to travel back and forth. The Canadian’s paranoia has drastically affected the economy and way of life for northern Minnesota businesses for a second straight year, according to the Grand Forks Herald.

The border closure and uncertain prospects for reopening have been especially difficult for resorts on the Northwest Angle mainland, where many visitors traditionally trailer their own boats on the road through Manitoba and fish the Ontario side of the lake. Sprinkled with thousands of islands, the Ontario side of Lake of the Woods offers better scenery and more protection from the wind than the open expanse of Minnesota waters.

With both the road to the Angle and the Ontario side of the lake off limits until the border reopens, McKeever at Young’s Bay says business is down 75% to 80% – “pretty easily” – since the onset of the pandemic.

In a letter to Biden and Trudeau earlier this year, key Minnesota state legislators summarized the scope of the damage inflicted by neglecting the border.

The effects are staggering, with Explore Minnesota reporting $7.1 billion in travel spending losses. The travel impact has been statewide, but there has been a pronounced impact to northern Minnesota from the loss of both Canadian customers and Minnesota customers.

According to the Canadian consulate, in 2017 Canadians made 703,000 trips to Minnesota and spent $195 million in our local economy, and in return, Minnesotans spend $208 million in travel service to Canada each year.

While members of Minnesota’s congressional delegation have held hearings to express concerns over the Canadians’ intransigence, Gov. Tim Walz has been largely silent. With his emergency pandemic powers now rescinded, perhaps Walz can finally prioritize the emergency faced by many Minnesotans caught in the middle of the border clampdown with Canada.