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M E M O R A N D U M

To: Marc Garneau, Minister of Foreign Affairs

From: Wayne Easter, Chair, House of Commons Finance Committee

Subject: Recommendations and Rationale in Support of a Structured and Systematic Reopening of the Canadian-U.S. Border by September 2021

Summary: The Canada-U.S. border was closed in March 2020 in an effort to stem the spread of the Covid-19 virus (Moetaz, 2021); however, the continued closure of the Canadian-U.S. border to nonessential travel due to Covid-19 pandemic concerns has severely diminished tourism revenues (Fox, 2021). Despite the significant economic impact this closure has already exacted, however, it is vitally important that the Canadian-U.S. border remained closed to travel and tourism until virus positivity rates and other conditions have improved and are adjudged safe by the scientific community.

Recommendations:

1. The Prime Minister should resist calls to reopen the Canadian-U.S. border immediately and consider extending the closure until September 2021.

2. The Canadian-U.S. border should reopen at the earliest opportunity, but only when satisfactory assurances have been received from the health care community that it is safe to do so; at present, these safety considerations include ensuring that at least 75% of all U.S. adults have been vaccinated against the Covid-19 virus (Fox, 2021).

3. Ensure that continued vigilance is in place that will alert Canadian health care authorities in the event conditions change after the border is reopened so that appropriate protective measures can be taken in response, including reclosing the Canada-U.S. border.

Background:

The United States is Canadas largest trading partner by far…

Indeed, prior to the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, Canada was visited by more than 5 million U.S. tourists in the fourth quarter of 2019 who contributed nearly $2 billion in revenues to the Canadian tourism industry (Visitor spending in Canada, 2021). These contributions include expenditure for accommodations, food and beverages, recreation and entertainment, clothing and gifts, transportation and other spending (Visitor spending in Canada, 2021).

Travel and tourism revenues therefore affect all sectors of the Canadian economy, but they are especially important for major urban centres such as Vancouver which accounted for 20% of total revenues (or $758 million), Toronto which accounted for nearly as much with $680 million in revenues (or 18% of total spending) and Montreal where international tourists spent $448 million (or 12% of total revenues) in the furth quarter of 2019, just prior to the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic (Visitor spending in Canada, 2019).

Considerations:

Although the economic stakes are very high in this calculus, it is vitally important that the reopening of the Canada-U.S. border proceed in a structured and systematic fashion. Notwithstanding the billions of dollars that are involved, the health and welfare of Canadian citizens remains of paramount importance, far outweighing the severity of the economic impact that the border closure has caused both nations. Indeed, although adult vaccination rates in Canada and the United States are comparable at about 48% of the adult populations, the coronavirus infection rate for Canadians is a troubling 56% compared to just 12% for U.S. adults (Fox, 2021).

Yet another important…

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