THE TOPIC OF THE SUMMER is the border and what progress we can achieve toward reopening. And so, I am focusing on the border in this column, though I am writing it in mid-July, not knowing how all of our efforts may or may not impact things by the first of August.
It’s like a long summer road trip with the kids in the back asking if we’re there yet! We’re Not, but we’re hoping we’re on our way, not knowing if there’s a traffic jam ahead that we may end up stuck in. (That traffic jam potentially being the calling of a Canadian federal election, immersing all things in Canada into near-term political calculus.)
The North Country Chamber has continued to use all avenues it can think of to push the message that the time has come for some real steps forward. That it is not acceptable to find ourselves 16 months into unprecedented closure with still no plan, no metrics, no transparency, no consultations with stakeholders, and no urgency.
In mid-July, we have stepped up personal advocacy by Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer including a Plattsburgh event, by Congressional Northern Border Caucus Co-Chairs Elise Stefanik and Brian Higgins, by state officials including Assemblyman Billy Jones who co-chairs a U.S.-Canada committee for a bi-national council of state and provincial governments, and through multiple other channels—some very public and some very quiet.
On the advice of M.P. friends in Ottawa, we and Rep. Stefanik have reached out to every Provincial Premier in Canada, having been made aware of their weekly conversations with Prime Minister Trudeau and the relevance of their positions regarding border progress. This has included virtual meetings with provincial governments, including Quebec and Ontario.
By August, I hope we will have seen some forward steps—perhaps bilaterally, but otherwise unilaterally by the U.S. allowing more back and forth travel by the vaccinated, including family members, property and boat owners, businesspeople with cross border interests, and travelers accessing U.S. airports.
Wherever we are now, I know our Chamber will remain focused and engaged. And that will continue until we ultimately emerge from this long period of damage being done to a unique bi-national economic and social relationship driven by people to people and not government to government.
Garry Douglas is president of the North Country Chamber of Commerce.