Canada-US border “must open”, companies say
Sutton and Venise-en-Québec – Pressure is mounting for governments in both Canada and the United States to reopen the border, which has been extended until June 21. In Quebec, the Eastern Townships are “impatiently” awaiting the return of American tourists, whose presence is very important to stimulate the economy.
“You can tell there are a lot of people in America who are impatient, eager to see us again. And U.S. too. This is a large part of our clientele, around 30% year after year, ”Élise Bourduas, co-owner of Auberge Brouërie in Sutton, told La Presse.
Border debates revived across the country on Wednesday after the Trudeau government announced that the three-day hotel quarantine would no longer be mandatory upon returning from a trip abroad, from early July.
Fortunately, since the border between the two countries was closed, the local and Quebec clientele has grown exponentially, Bourduas said. “No matter what happens at the border, we expect it to be a crazy summer. But we are ready for war. Compared to last year, we are also 200% better prepared to handle traffic while playing by the rules, ”she said.
“I think we are ready now,” she added, of the reopening of the border. “We must continue to be careful, of course, but Quebec as a whole has adapted well to the rules. We were good soldiers, and at one point postponing the opening of the border again and again is not necessarily a good option. “
At the Hotel Horizon in Sutton, nearly one in 10 customers usually come from the United States.
“With the many Montrealers, we still managed to do better than the previous seasons, especially with the campsites. But the hotel definitely took a hit. The return of the Americans would help a lot with that, ”said Camille Fabre, an employee of the hotel.
“It would bring back some local energy. Throughout the year there was much less traffic than before, especially in winter. A lot of people come from the United States to ski Mount Sutton, ”she added.
“It must open”
Venise-en-Québec is also impatiently awaiting the reopening of the border. For resident John Sauro, now is the time to let people travel a bit.
“It has to open up. Here we depend a lot on tourism. Most people are day trippers, that is, they come for the day and return home at night. Local tourism has increased a lot, it’s great, but all these people will go elsewhere when possible. And then we’ll need the Americans to come back, ”he said.
In March, Sauro founded Aventures Lac Champlain, a company that offers guided water excursions on Lake Champlain, located primarily within the borders of the United States.
“Of course, in the long run, we will need the coming and going of the Americans. It’s a lot of people, ”he said, noting that the same is true for the DNA of neighborhoods around the lake.
Serge Dandurand, who also lives in the town of about 1600 inhabitants, accepted. He said small businesses and Quebec businesses “need the United States” to start making significant profits again, “as was the case in the pre-COVID era.”
“The government has no more excuses, we must act now,” he said.
Hugo Hamel, owner of the car and boat rental company Off Road 227 in Venise-en-Québec, faces the same problems.
“We have about eight kilometers of Lake Champlain in Canada, so it’s more complicated to navigate right now. And some boats go out less frequently. Reopening would also help us obtain equipment that is currently inaccessible, ”he said.
“It would also have a big impact on the sale of bigger boats, which people often buy to go to Burlington, for example. When we were at 600 cases (COVID-19) a day, I got it, but we’re somewhere else now. And vaccinations are progressing. We are ready, I think, ”added Hamel.
Michel Morelli, a Montrealer, owns a boat stored at the marina in Mooney Bay, near Plattsburgh, in the United States.
“This is the second season that we are in storage without being able to access Lake Champlain. And I am not an isolated case. About 90 percent of the sailboats on the lake are owned by Quebecers, ”he said.
“The reality is that very few people have been able to launch their boats for a long time. This is very damaging for the local economy, which also depends a lot on Quebecers. We’re not just talking about marinas, but restaurants, hotels, etc. “, he added.
According to him, it is possible to reopen the borders in a safe way, for example by ensuring that travelers are vaccinated with two doses before leaving.
“I am very aware that we still have to be careful. The variants (COVID-19) are of concern and we cannot know the future. At the same time, we can’t wait any longer, ”said Morelli.
Across the border in Vermont, Jim Blandino, owner of the North Hero Marina, is also pushing for the border to reopen.
“Every year on site, we have a good number of Canadian customers. Yes, it is an important part of our income, but above all, we miss it, ”he said.
“Most of the people we have here don’t see Canada and the United States as two countries, but as North America. There is also the question of reunification. There are families who haven’t seen each other for over a year. This has to change, ”said Blandino.