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While some US politicians keep pushing for border reopening, Canada goes slow with pushback

While U.S. politicians and some private residents want to see our border with Canada reopen soon, some political observers feel they are not in any hurry to do so.

BUFFALO, N.Y. — While U.S. politicians and some private residents want to see our border with Canada reopen soon, some political observers feel they are not in any hurry to do so up in Ottawa.

Congressman Brian Higgins and his Border Caucus colleagues along with Senator Chuck Schumer have been calling for a border reopening for months. Higgins even suggested a unilateral reopening to give vaccine starved Canadians a chance to come across and get it over here. 

"I think people in the United States and Canada need some sense of vision as to what we need to do in order to get the border open again," Higgins told 2 On Your Side on Tuesday.

The Buffalo Democrat added, "When there is nothing coming out relative to public comments about the border and about a vision for opening - I think that's a terrible disservice to the people in the United States and Western New York and the people - the province of Ontario and the entire country of Canada."

Higgins also says he's talking about joint statements to do so with two Ministers of Parliament, which is the Canadian version of Congress.

However on Monday Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said this in a press conference according to the Canadian Press, "We're on the right path, but we'll make our decisions based on the interests of Canadians and not based on what other countries want." 

Add in that some Canadian provinces are just coming out of their third surge in COVID cases. Plus Ontario with Toronto is just coming out of government imposed lockdown and starting to ease restrictions on June 2. Some Canadians have held protests about those restrictions. 

The slow start with vaccine distribution in Canada, which may be easing a bit with millions more doses coming in.

And again it does come down to those vaccinations - shots in the arm or "jabs" as the Canadians put it. As of two days ago statistics showed that only 5.5 percent of the Canadian population is fully vaccinated. Here in the U.S. we're at just over 40 percent nationally and up to 50 percent in some states.

Then back to the political dynamic. An opinion poll by the Angus Reid Canadian survey firm found just under half of questioned Canadians wanted to see the border closed all summer. 

Professor D. Monroe Eagles who is from Canada, chairs UB's Political Science Department, and helps run the Canadian Studies Program says about Trudeau, "I'm sure he's hearing pressure, but I've heard the continuous message that things have to improve before we can open things up."

Another U.S.-Canada relations expert at UB, Kathryn Bryk Friedman who also has Washington ties, say the Trudeau government is checking those poll numbers and they may give them some political cover for a go-slow approach. 

"It's an election year -  they will most likely be called this fall," Bryk Friedman said. "And they do not want to be perceived as doing anything to jeopardize public health."

And as for U.S. political pressure Bryk Friedman says, "The fact that our Congressman and our Senator are calling for unilateral lifting of the restrictions - and there is a lot of sentiment in other quarters for a unilateral lifting of the restrictions - I'm not sure that that is resonating with the Trudeau government at this point in time."

Apparently there have been some upper level talks about how to reopen but nothing concrete.

So 2 On Your Side asked Congressman Higgins, "From what you're hearing from the Canadians and what you're hearing in Washington - do you think the border will be open before September? 

Higgins responded, "I think the border will be open by September. My hope is it'll be in July."

But again consider that recent Angus Reid Canadian nationwide poll of Canadians from mid-May. Professor Eagles says he was struck by the point that, "Only about 23 percent of Canadians were in favor of opening the border immediately and then it was slightly under half wanted to see the border remain closed all summer."