Canada’s Finance Minister Bill Morneau doesn’t expect that Canada will ease its travel restrictions with the United States anytime soon.
Speaking with BNN Bloomberg on Wednesday (July 8th) shortly after delivering Canada’s fiscal update that projects a $343.2 billion deficit in 2020-21, Morneau said that reopening the Canada-U.S. border would create "additional risk" for Canadians.
The land border between Canada and the U.S. closed for non-essential travel on March 21st and, as of now, will remain closed until July 21st.
After that date, the border could reopen or remain closed, depending on what the federal government decides to do.
The restriction has been extended twice already, for 30 days at a time. However, trade, commerce and essential workers and goods have still been allowed to cross.
Sticking to the plan
In his interview with BNN, Morneau acknowledged the challenges that Canada’s travel and tourism industry, and the economy, is currently facing.
"I hear the challenges, we understand them, but what we won't be doing is changing our approach, which we think will protect our health, in any way that's inappropriate," said Morneau.
Morneau’s comments come one day after the Canadian Association of Tour Operators (CATO) sent a letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau requesting clear measures and/or criteria for the reopening of Canada’s borders and the restart of travel, both national and international.
“The travel industry is unlike any other industry,” CATO’s letter reads. “It can be quickly stopped but not easily started. It requires advance scheduling and commitments from both consumers as well as suppliers. Any meaningful supply-side recovery will be preceded by weeks, if not months of seeding demand recovery.”
The letter adds how the travel industry remains "at a standstill with little, if any, prospects at the current time for recovery."
U.S. hits 3 million cases
COVID-19 is ravaging regions in the U.S. as the country surpassed 3 million cases this week – a point that Morneau also acknowledged.
"Clearly, we have a real challenge south of the border right now and we don't believe that changing the travel restrictions in a way that creates additional risk will be prudent at this time,” he told BNN.
Morneau’s remarks also come about one month after more than 120 leaders from Canada’s travel industry asked Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to "reopen the doors of our country" by means of an open letter, sent on behalf of the Canadian Travel & Tourism Roundtable.
Several familiar names signed the letter, including Calin Rovinescu, president and CEO, Air Canada; Carolyne Doyon, president and CEO North America, Club Med; Ed Sims, president and CEO, WestJet; Frank DeMarinis, president and CEO, Travel Brands; Jean-Marc Eustache, president and CEO, Transat; Wendy Paradis, president of the Association of Canadian Travel Agencies (ACTA); and Zeina Gedeon, CEO, Travel Professionals International.
The letter outlines the impact COVID-19 has had on the tourism sector as well as the tough business decisions that were made in accordance with the federal government’s guidelines.
"As we re-open, we are learning to live with the virus, not hide from it or from each other. And, just like we are re-opening the front doors of our homes and businesses, we need to re-open the doors of our provinces, territories – and our country," the letter stated.
Morneau told BNN that he recognizes that airlines have been "hit in a very challenging" way, but also noted how the sector has utilized the federal government's wage subsidy program and loan program for large businesses.
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