Relief at US-Canada border as restrictions are lifted

After the Canadian government announced Monday that it would lift most border restrictions due to Covid-19 concerns, starting on Saturday, in Niagara-on-the-Lake, on Sunday afternoon at Crystal Beach and even It just got a whole lot easier to get to Toronto overnight.

After 30 months of barriers to transit, from complete closures to the need to use the ArriveCan mobile app, the new development means normal traffic and commerce can resume freely. The Ottawa Department of Health now says it is no longer necessary to enter Canada through ArriveCan, or to quarantine or quarantine if a traveler tests positive for Covid-19.

While nearly all tourism and government officials saw Monday’s move as long overdue, they were also ecstatic about the prospect of fully integrating the economies of New York and Ontario again.

“Border restrictions between the U.S. and Canada have been in place for two and a half years,” said Rep. Brian Higgins, D-Buffalo, who was outspoken about the need for normal border crossing procedures. Loved by people.” Keeping border communities from achieving full economic recovery. The end of the restriction is late. Canada’s decision is correct. The United States should follow up immediately. “

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Overall, the local tourism industry has performed better this year than last year, but business is still far from pre-pandemic levels. What is missing? International tourists.

Even after Ottawa in April allowed easier travel to Canada using the ArriveCan app, unfamiliarity with the procedure and the prospect of random testing combined to bring travel back to a far cry from pre-pandemic levels. In fact, the Peace Bridge Authority reported Monday that even in August, after ArriveCan offered several months of availability, traffic levels were down more than 44 percent from the same month in 2019.

Authority general manager Ron Rienas said it had all resulted in layoffs, delayed maintenance and dredging of reserves. It also caused massive bridge backups throughout the summer, as travelers without the app occupied Canadian checkpoints even as traffic levels plummeted.

“It takes longer on average per vehicle because people have trouble using the app or don’t fill it out correctly,” he said. “That means cars are backed up and trucks have a hard time getting off bridges. When you’re in so little traffic When the situation is delayed more than an hour, it becomes very disturbing.

“But are we happy now?” he added. “Absolutely.”

However, reduced traffic at the Peace Bridge and the Niagara County border crossing is only part of the problem. Americans and Canadians alike stayed on one side of the border, travel to tourist destinations like Niagara Falls, New York, and Niagara Falls, Ontario plummeted, Canadian shoppers at malls and grocery stores in Western New York stayed away, and lots of air flow came from Ontario. Travelers from the South who use Buffalo Niagara International Airport get almost nothing.

Almost everyone involved in cross-border transportation is now excited about the prospect of returning to pre-pandemic life, or at least the “new normal” that follows. Business in Canada’s most popular tourist destination and its 16,000 hotel rooms has been “destroyed” by restrictions, affecting the livelihoods of 40,000 people, Mayor Jim Diodati of Niagara Falls, Ont., said Monday. He said 50% of the average American tourist was unable to visit during the three tourist summers.

Now, Diodati believes reopening borders is so important that Canada’s prime minister and provincial premiers should hold a ribbon-cutting gala and launch a massive marketing campaign to show that “Canada is open for business again.”

“This reopening will enable international tourism to kick in,” the mayor said. “Families that have been separated will be able to reunite, and those without smartphones and technology will once again be able to freely cross our borders.

“We need to learn to live with the coronavirus and rebuild international traffic,” he added.

Conservative MP Tony Baldinelli of Fort Erie said political pressure could finally prompt Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government to lift restrictions. For months, Baldinelli and other Conservatives have been fiercely critical of the Liberal majority’s insistence on continuing to use ArriveCan and other demands. Baldinelli said on Monday he was “ecstatic” about reopening borders after two years of coronavirus fears, but noted the loss of a third summer tour was “self-inflicted.”

“There’s been tremendous pressure from me and my Conservative colleagues, and I think there’s enough pressure for the government to finally have to act,” he said. “This decision should have been made a few months ago.”

Baldinelli also called for a major effort “to say Canada is open now.”

State Senate Minority Leader Robert G. Ortt of North Tonawanda has also injected New York politics into what he believes should not happen.

“New Yorkers have seen the freedom to connect and gather with family and friends suppressed during the pandemic,” he said. “This freedom should no longer be in the hands of an overbearing government.”

Dottie Gallagher, president of the Buffalo Niagara Partnership, said concerns about random testing and possible quarantines in Ontario are holding back important aspects of the region’s integrated economy. She called the move “frankly long overdue,” especially for travelers who are reluctant to even try a navigational requirement like ArriveCan.

But now she hopes Canadian fans will come back to watch the Buffalo Sabres games and shop at stores in Western New York. She also felt the need to market the area.

“We have a responsibility to reintroduce ourselves and make ourselves popular with people,” Gallagher said, “especially for those who come to Galleria … or Wegmans. Those habits have to be rebuilt, and it will take time. “

Meanwhile, the Niagara Border Transit Agency is looking to resume air travelers from southern Ontario, who used to make up more than 40 percent of Buffalo airport travelers, which has fallen to around 10 percent. NFTA spokesperson Helen Tederous called the move “good news,” noting that the border closure to the airport’s normal Canadian customers has affected Buffalo more than any other airport in the United States.

Tedros said she also expects authorities to resume marketing efforts at Ontario’s Buffalo and Niagara Falls airports.

Rienas of the Peace Bridge Authority believes that rebuilding will take time. He pointed to Buffaloes on the Canadian coast who sold their properties to Torontonians due to border restrictions. Same goes for Canadians who own a ski area in Ellicottville.

“Time will tell if people now make other travel decisions,” he said. “Hopefully next summer we will see normal traffic levels, albeit possibly lower than in 2019.”

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