Canada’s business leaders demand plan to reopen borders

Shelby Thevenot
Published: June 15, 2021

Canadian business groups, are urging the federal government to come up with a comprehensive plan to reopen the economy and international borders.

On June 14, the Canadian Travel and Tourism Roundtable called on the federal government to release the plan immediately. The government has not yet published a comprehensive reopening plan for international travel, particularly for fully vaccinated foreign nationals who want to come to Canada.

Canada first implemented travel restrictions in March 2020, and has since renewed these restrictions about every month. The current restrictions are in place until June 21.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau attended the G7 Summit this weekend, where the leaders of some of the world's richest countries agreed that there was a need for "a set of common standards for travel including... recognition of vaccination status including exemptions and comparable criteria for when responsive measures may be required." Canada was the only G7 country to come out of the summit without a comprehensive reopening plan.

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At the summit, Trudeau spoke with U.S. President Joe Biden on reopening the border, but nothing was decided.

"Canada cannot afford to be left behind as other countries around the world begin to reopen," said Susie Grynol, President and CEO of the Hotel Association of Canada, in a media release. "Without a clear plan in place, our vibrant tourism industry is at risk and people's livelihoods are in jeopardy. Fully vaccinated travellers should be afforded the same opportunities, regardless of their nationalities."

Canadian business leaders want a single national policy approach to travel that clarified Canada's policy on vaccination certification, the international border, and unvaccinated children.

Canada is now leading the world in number of single doses of the coronavirus vaccine. As of June 5, about 70 per cent of Canada's population over the age of 12 have received at least one dose. While the roundtable agrees that the border should be reopened on the basis of science, they argue "there is no science-based reason to further delay the implementation of the government's own Expert Panel recommendations."

Earlier in June, the COVID-19 Testing and Screening Expert Advisory Panel advised the federal government to start easing quarantine restrictions.

Last week, the public health department announced its intention to remove the mandatory hotel quarantine requirement for fully vaccinated Canadians and reduce quarantine upon the results of an arrivals test. Although, business leaders say this is not enough.

"The Canadian travel and tourism industry — and the Canada-U.S. border — has been effectively closed since March 2020. A holistic Canada-wide plan is needed to provide certainty to businesses and Canadians. We are seeing provinces fill in the gaps that have been created by the absence of a federal reopening plan and this will create confusion for travellers," said Beth Potter, President & CEO of the Tourism Industry Association of Canada.

The Canadian Travel & Tourism Roundtable is a nationwide coalition of leaders in the tourism and travel sector, which include representatives from airports, airlines, hotels, and chambers of commerce across the country. The group is committed to safely restart the hard-hit sector. Travel and Tourism is a $105 billion sector that employs millions, and accounts for more than 2 per cent of the country's gross domestic product.

"Countries that successfully implement a science and data–based testing and quarantine policy will not only protect public health, they will drive their overall domestic recovery and take jobs and investment from countries that do not," said Mike McNaney, President and CEO of the National Airlines Council of Canada, which represents Canada's largest airlines. "We have tens of thousands of employees that are relying on government to release a plan."

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