US border towns want the Canadian border to open for the economy

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Posted at 10:38 AM, Sep 09, 2021

BUFFALO, N.Y. — While Canada’s border is open to Americans for non-essential travel, the U.S. announced it will not open its borders for Canadians until at least September 21.

Western New York is the point on the map where two flags are raised in one city: the Maple Leaf, and Old Glory.

“We are such an integrated economy here,” said Dottie Gallagher, the CEO of Buffalo Niagara Partnership. “Just in tourism spending, 35 to 45 of our tourism visitors were Canadian. So, that’s 650 million to almost 900 million a year just in Canadian spending.”

What the two nations have raised together is the world's most comprehensive trading relationship. It rakes in $1.7 billion a day in goods and services traded between the two nations, according to the U.S. Department of State.

However, when the pandemic struck, border cities like Buffalo took a major hit.

“When you look at the overall tourism spending, that’s just shut off for us,” Gallagher said. “I mean our city has been declining in population for almost 70 years. And we really rely on that visitation to drive a lot of our tax revenue and visitor spending. Our airport – 10 to 15% of passengers that fly out of there are Canadian. That’s $200 million a year we lost.”

Industries like retail, tourism, and restaurants lost major business from their international neighbors.

Recently, the Canadian border opened to Americans. With a vaccination card and a negative COVID-19 test, Americans can walk over into Canada.

However, that hasn’t been reciprocated in the U.S.

According to Statistics Canada, with Canadians spending on average $3,000 per trip to the U.S., the economy lost $4 billion in Canadian spending in the final quarter of last year.

For some tourism businesses, it’s been a struggle.

“We lost out on so much business,” said Mary Roberts, the executive director of the Frank Lloyd Martin House. “In a normal pre-pandemic year, we would welcome 40,000 visitors a year. That’s 5,000 to 6,000 visitors from Canada that are not coming here. Here at this site, we are losing conservatively $250,000 each year.

And restaurant owners hope the border will open soon because their business depends on Canadian visitors.

“One of our factors to reopening was the original target dates of the border reopening,” said Dora Kukuliatas Wisniewski, the owner of Tom’s Restaurant. “We anticipated that being last year in September, but things didn’t go as we thought they would. So, we are renovating. We are hopeful the border will open soon because we are binational partners. We are a binational region. Western New York needs Southern Ontario as much as Southern Ontario needs Western New York.”

The U.S Department of Homeland Security stated that “Given the outbreak and continued transmission and spread of COVID-19 within the United States and globally, the Secretary has determined that the risk of continued transmission and spread of the virus associated with COVID-19 between the United States and Canada poses an ongoing “specific threat to human life or national interests.”