Sep. 23—PLATTSBURGH — North Country officials are hoping that Canada's decision to eliminate most COVID-19 restrictions for border crossings will help bring travel levels back to normal.
"This is great news and we are very happy to hear this," Clinton County Legislature Chairman Mark Henry (R-Area 3, Chazy) said.
"Winter is coming and many Canadians will be coming down here to use our airport, our hotels and our restaurants. We certainly do expect travel to increase."
According to North Country Chamber of Commerce President Garry Douglas, Canada agreed to eliminate its remaining pandemic-related restrictions at the land border on Sept. 30.
Among those restrictions was the requirement to use the ArriveCAN app. The app called for users to input information about when and where they would be crossing into Canada and their COVID-19 vaccine status.
But the app was not well received and many users complained about having difficulty inputting information, and the information seemingly not being used once they arrived at the border where they were required to answer many of the same questions on the app.
YEARS OF SEPARATION AND RESTRICTIONS
Local officials believe that the requirement of the app affected border travel in a negative way.
"There is nothing more important to the special relationship of the U.S. and Canada than the free connections between the American and Canadian people," Douglas said.
"Canada's mandated use of its ArriveCAN app was directly diminishing the resumption of cross border travel and we are pleased it will be abandoned as a mandate. Together with dropping the vaccination mandate to enter Canada at our shared border and the ending of random testing, we are on the cusp of normalcy after two and a half long years of separation and restrictions."
RESTORING TRAVEL ACTIVITY
The chamber has been a strong advocate for a return to 2019 norms at the U.S.-Canadian border, including abandonment of the ArriveCAN app. It has reported cross border travel at Champlain having reached 70% of 2019 levels this past summer, but most border areas stuck at around 50%.
"Restoring 2019 travel activity is important to both countries and the entire bi-national relationship, and now we can all work towards that aim through the coming holidays and in 2023," Douglas said.
Douglas thanked the Canadian government for listening to growing concerns and responding, and also thanked Congresswoman Elise Stefanik and Buffalo Congressman Brian Higgins, Senators Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, State Assemblyman Billy Jones and others in both countries for their determined advocacy.
"Now we need full reciprocal action by the U.S. government as we remain stuck with both countries moving in uncoordinated ways on border policies," Douglas said.
"We ask Homeland Security to drop its remaining restrictions at the U.S.-Canada land border starting September 30 so we don't have chaos and confusion and can resume cross-border travel freely."