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Frustration builds as U.S.-Canada border remains closed

Mounting frustration from U.S. Rep. Brian Higgins is directed at Ottawa and Washington. Higgins says follow the science.

BUFFALO, N.Y. — There was anticipation building on both sides of the border that there might be some movement on reopening as Canadian health officials held a news conference on Wednesday.

But perhaps the absence of Prime Minister Trudeau should have been a tipoff.

So really, the only thing building was official frustration on the U.S. side since the border remains closed. That is even with the hope it could reopen sometime in July.

In English and in French, Canada's top health officials basically only told their citizens who travel there were some quarantine changes if they were fully vaccinated. So on this side of the border there was official frustration.

U.S. Congressman Brian Higgins, who has pushed for that for that reopening for his Western New York constituents, dismissed it this way.

"That announcement is complete nonsense. And did nothing relative to changing the current circumstances nor offered any vision. It caused more confusion," he said.

Higgins also directed criticism at the Biden Administration.

"A public statement was made by President Biden, who on the second day in office, directed three cabinet secretaries to develop a plan to open the border within 14 days. That was the third week in January. Here we are with nothing," Higgins said.

The Canadians do emphasize that they are trying to improve their vaccination rate. As for those who did get fully vaccinated, Higgins says follow the science.

"Those folks should be free to travel between the United States and Canada. Why? Because they pose no risk to themselves, and they pose no risk to anybody else," he said.

Those Canadian counterparts to Dr. Anthony Fauci did say more vaccine is coming with Moderna  en route from the U.S. supply chain for the first time ever. That should help more of their citizens get the jab as they say.

But the full vaccination rate so far of 7 percent Canadian as compared to 45 percent or so in the United States may be a "sticking point" for Ottawa. 

Some border boosters do hope that this week's G-7 summit will give Prime Minister Trudeau and President Biden some in-person talking time to reach an agreement.

"They need to get together and develop a plan for the opening of the border and jointly communicate that plan to both the people of the United States and the people of Canada," Higgins said.

Niagara Falls, Canada, Mayor Jim Diodati says we should definitely avoid a U.S. unilateral opening, as Higgins and others previously suggested, for Canadians to get vaccinations.

"Maybe they can come forward and make sure we're on the same page cause you don't want things to be unilateral. You want to do things together and collectively," Diodati said. "It will make things a lot better because there's so much confusion about rules, what you're allowed to do, or what you're not allowed to do. It would be nice if they both agreed to a certain level."

Mayor Diodati further explains that outdoor-only dining for restaurants (no indoor dining yet) in his city, and Toronto is just restarting this Friday as Ontario continues to come out of its previous COVID lockdown.

He does have some hope about next month despite his national government's very careful, measured, phased-in approach. 

Diodati would like to see it by early July, for Canada Day and Independence Day for the United States. But realistically, he says "July 21, they expect all of Canada to be at 75 percent fully vaccinated, and at that point we expect even further loosening of the border restrictions, and hopefully eliminating them all-together."

Diodati says he has spoken with some national government ministers, and he feels that they should stress vaccination and not hesitation about opening.

"I think this is further incentive for people to get their vaccines if they know this is how you can go across the border. This is how you get to watch the Blue Jays at Sahlen Field in Buffalo," Diodati said.