Trudeau made his comments hours after lawmakers in the Midwest unanimously passed a resolution calling on the White House and the Canadian government to reopen the border “immediately” to fully vaccinated travelers.
“The reality is we know how incredibly expensive and heartbreaking it would be to fall into a fourth wave of this pandemic,” the Prime Minister said.
Quick context: The Canada-U.S. Border has been closed to non-essential travel since March 2020. It has been extended on an ongoing monthly basis. The current deal expires on July 21.
Trudeau has been severely criticized on both sides of the border by business groups and lawmakers in border towns, including Representative Brian Higgins (DN.Y.). New York State Assembly Member Jonathan Rivera sent a letter to Kirsten Hillman, Canada’s Ambassador to the United States, earlier this month, calling the target an “unreasonable and unachievable goal. “.
New pressure: Biparty support backed the resolution at the Midwestern Legislative Conference, an annual regional meeting of state and provincial leaders, echoing frustrations over continued border restrictions.
“The interpretation of what is considered essential travel has been a matter of discretion by individual border officials, creating confusion,” read the one-page resolution. “Fully vaccinated people do not pose a threat of transmission of Covid-19. “
The Midwestern Legislative Conference is a regional arm of the national nonprofit association, the Council of State Governments. The US legislature has invited Canada to formally participate. But due to border restrictions, few Canadian delegates attended in person.
How the resolution happened: Scotty Greenwood, President and CEO of the Canadian American Business Council, has been invited to speak at the Rapid City, SD, Private Sector and Supply Chains conference.
“Then we also talked about the border closure,” Greenwood told POLITICO. “A fairly heated discussion emerged with lawmakers, expressing a lot of frustration with the continued closure of the Canada-US border, especially Americans who are generally vaccinated. “
The resolution was not “pre-baked,” Greenwood said, adding that it emerged organically from frustrated conversations at the conference.
The secret behind the decision-making process: The Public Health Agency of Canada is responsible for administering the Quarantine Act, which gives Federal Health Minister Patty Hajdu the power to establish protocols for travelers who may have communicable diseases, such as the Covid-19.
Trudeau has repeatedly said his government made its pandemic decision based on scientific and public health recommendations. Canada’s chief public health officer has suggested that border-related announcements fall to Trudeau.
Theresa Tam told reporters last week that she had given advice on the trajectory of vaccine coverage, variants of concern and epidemiology. “At the end of the day,” she said, “I will of course leave it to the Prime Minister to communicate what the next steps might be. “
Madeleine Gomery, spokesperson for Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Minister Bill Blair, offered little clarity when POLITICO asked her to identify the decision-makers responsible for managing the Canada-U.S. Border issue.
“The decision to update public health measures at the border is made at the Cabinet level and involves a variety of factors,” Gomery said. “While we cannot go into the details of the Cabinet discussions, generally speaking, these decisions are based on extensive consultations with counterparts in the United States and around the world, and on expert advice from officials and officials. Canadian public health agencies. “
The data: More than 50 percent of eligible Canadians have been fully immunized, according to data collected by CTV News.
The Trudeau government has previously signaled that border restrictions will not change until at least 75 percent of eligible Canadians are fully immunized.
Border restrictions have been in place since the start of the pandemic to curb the potential importation of Covid-19 into the country.
In November, Canada’s Department of Health appointed a 13-member “Expert Advisory Committee on COVID-19 Screening and Testing” to advise the federal government on a possible application at the land and air borders.
The panel released a report in May that cited updated advice from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that fully vaccinated travelers are “less likely to contract and spread COVID-19.” It also found that the number of Covid-19 cases imported via the land border is a fraction of those detected among air travelers.
Public health data suggests that among those surveyed between February 22 and March 24, 2021, “Air travelers had an arrival test positivity rate of 1.5% while ground travelers had a positivity rate. of the 0.3% arrival test ”.
And after: The border is a topic expected to be addressed during Trudeau’s call with prime ministers on Thursday.
The resolution passed by the slate lawmakers is expected to be passed on to members of Congress for the attention of the White House.