It’s time to say goodbye to the ArriveCan app, say border town mayors, industry leaders and others who complain that Canada’s strict COVID-19 rules for international travelers encourage potential US visitors to spend their tourist dollars at home.
Two Ontario mayors whose cities rely on cross-border tourism – Mike Bradley of Sarnia and Jim Diodati of Niagara Falls – on Wednesday urged the federal government to stop forcing travelers to navigate a pre-approval process that many find frustrating and confusing.
“I learned a long time ago – I’ve been in politics for a long time: when you get on a dead horse, get off,” Bradley said at a press conference in Ottawa.
“That’s what the federal government needs to do.”
Bradley, Diodati and Estelle Muzzi, mayors of the Quebec border community of Saint-Bernard-de-Lacolle south of Montreal, as well as advocates for duty-free operators, say the rules restrict unintentional cross-border visits, which they say are crucial to their local economies.
Adding spot to injury, they say, is the fact that similar rules do not exist for travelers traveling into the United States, especially now that Ottawa is lifting the COVID-19 vaccination requirement for domestic and international travel abroad.
Canadian and foreign visitors wishing to enter Canada must continue to use the app or an online portal to submit their vaccination information to the Canada Border Services Agency in advance, a rule that Diodati says has lost its usefulness.
“We all supported the federal government with all the border restrictions; we stood shoulder to shoulder with them to make sure we were safe,” he said.
“But science now tells us that these border restrictions no longer serve us. First, it was to keep the virus out – yes, it’s clearly here. It does not do what it was originally intended to do.”
Richard Cannings, an NDP MP whose southern BC riding includes six separate border crossings between Canada and the United States, said duty-free shops in these communities continue to experience lower business 95% of what they were before the pandemic.
“The NDP caucus in particular has been very supportive of restrictions to keep Canadians safe on their travels and in their work,” Cannings said.
“But we’ve been calling for a Border Security Task Force for many months, a border security strategy that would bring stakeholders together to build a system that makes sense for all Canadians to protect us, but also to keep businesses running.
There was an absence of US votes at Wednesday’s press conference, a sharp difference from the bilateral calls for a easing of restrictions that became an inevitable part of the pandemic last year.
That’s because American communities and tourism operators are profiting from the imbalance, as it encourages American travelers to stay seated and spend their money closer to home, Bradley said.
“Americans, and I give them the credit for that, are excellent in their own interests,” he said.
Some U.S. lawmakers have taken full political advantage of the vaccine mandate’s protests, which hampered cross-border traffic and trade to the south earlier this year, and spoke in favor of upscaling domestic manufacturing and supply chains, Bradley added.
“They used it as an economic development tool to keep industries in their own country instead of getting here.”
Representative Brian Higgins, a New York congressman who during the pandemic has become one of the loudest advocates of easing travel restrictions, appeared later Wednesday to express solidarity with his Canadian cousins.
“I join the city’s leaders and tourism agencies in calling for an end to ArriveCan’s mandate,” Higgins said in a statement. Voters often call his office, “frustrated and confused” over the constant changes in the requirements to cross the border, he said.
“That is why many people completely avoid crossing the border to circumvent the uncertainty and inconvenience this creates. We need to go back to pre-pandemic border management between Canada and the United States. »
Martin Firestone, a travel insurance broker in Toronto who specializes in helping retirees get through the winter months in warmer climates like Florida, said ArriveCan’s requirements are particularly burdensome for his clients, seniors and less tech savvy.
Many of them “do not have a phone to do it – and although they can do it on a computer, nothing is simple; it’s no use, ”Firestone said.
“You ask too many people to the point where they want to say, ‘You know what, it’s just not worth it.
The government will “suspend” COVID-19 vaccination mandates for outbound domestic and international travelers as well as federally regulated workers from Monday. Visiting foreign nationals must be vaccinated to avoid 14 days of quarantine and extensive testing.
Transport Minister Omar Alghabra acknowledged the ongoing complaints and said on Tuesday that the government was working on “efficiencies” to make it cheaper. But it remains a valuable and necessary public health tool, Alghabra said.
Travel industry groups have blamed federal public health measures and mandates for curbside airport tariffs, which have contributed to long waiting times for passengers and forced flight delays and cancellations.
These delays will only get worse now that the rules are changing for some travelers, but not all, Firestone warned.
“Airport flow will increase significantly on Monday,” he said, also among Canadian travelers who do not fully understand international rules. “Look at what happens at the airport when they land and they have not completed their ArriveCan properly.”
This report from The Canadian Press was first published on June 15, 2022.
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