PLATTSBURGH — Officials took Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's indication that fully vaccinated Americans may be allowed into Canada for nonessential purposes mid-August as a positive sign, but did not want reopening-related developments to stop there.
State Assemblyman D. Billy Jones (D-Chateaugay Lake) said he could not see a scenario where Trudeau would make such a move and the United States would not take reciprocal action on allowing Canadian visitors.
"Every indication that we have gotten is that, once Canada acted on this, that the Biden administration would and do it in a bilateral manner," he told the Press-Republican.
"We would think they would and we are very hopeful that they will."
Trudeau's announcement about the possibility that fully vaccinated U.S. citizens and permanent residents could be allowed into Canada next month came through a readout of a call he participated in with Canada's provincial and territorial premiers Thursday.
He further indicated that ministers would share more details early next week, and noted ongoing discussions with the United States about reopening plans.
The Trudeau government has said health and border-related restrictions would not be lifted until at least 75% of Canadians were fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
According to the Government of Canada's website, data through July 10 shows that about 44% are fully vaccinated and just shy of 69% have received at least one dose.
As of Friday afternoon, the United States had not made a similar announcement about when it would allow Canadians to cross by land ports of entry for nonessential reasons. Canadians can currently cross the border by plane.
Last month, interagency working groups with the European Union, the United Kingdom, Canada and Mexico were launched to look at safely resuming travel between those countries and the United States, a White House official said.
They have met several times to discuss relevant factors, including progress on U.S. vaccinations and the risk posed by the Delta variant, the official continued, adding that further discussions were needed before announcements on any next steps could be made.
The official said the White House wants to be sure the United States moves deliberately and is in a position to sustainably reopen international travel when it is safe to do so.
Multiple officials have called for the United States to take unilateral action to reopen its side of the border to Canadians. U.S. Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-Schuylerville) pushed for that move last month and, last week, U.S. Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) joined that chorus.
North Country Chamber of Commerce President Garry Douglas said everyone would renew the call for unilateral action by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security this month.
"Canada continues to take unilateral actions and we need to start doing so as well," he continued in a statement.
"If a Canadian federal election is called in August for September, we'll be likely to see no further progress before fall on their part but can make further progress on our part."
Douglas said that, though it was not clear why Canada would not allow fully vaccinated Americans to cross now instead of next month, "we certainly welcome this indication of meaningful progress."
He said it was clear that advocacy and outreach by the chamber and partners in both countries has been having some effect, noting calls for progress by Schumer, Stefanik and her fellow House Northern Border Caucus co-chair, U.S. Rep. Brian Higgins (D-Niagara Falls/Buffalo).
Stefanik said in a statement that her advocacy would continue, noting her recent conversations and communication with Canadian premiers and members of Parliament.
"Our goal remains a full reopening and I will continue my full court press with both Canada and the Biden administration. It is long past overdue.”
She also signed onto a letter to President Joe Biden Friday urging him not to extend the border restrictions, currently set to expire Wednesday.
State Sen. Dan Stec (R-Queensbury) said it was encouraging to see Canada start to follow the science and realize the border could be safely reopened.
He noted the damage done to businesses on both sides of the border due to the closure as well as how it has prevented people from visiting property and family.
"Canada should move much more quickly to open its border than the proposed mid-August timeframe," he added.
U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) noted the deep and valuable economic partnership between New York and Canada.
"As peak tourism season approaches, it is essential for New York families, businesses and communities that fully vaccinated Americans can move across the border. I have been pushing for a smart and thoughtful approach to the U.S.-Canada border and I am hopeful that it will reopen soon.”
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