Why many Canadians support the Canada-U.S. border closure, despite the costs

Canadian support for keeping the border closed to Americans remains strong, despite a decline in new COVID-19 cases in the U.S. and a decimated tourism industry.

A new poll by pollster Research Co. found that out of 1,000 Canadians surveyed online at the end of August, a whopping 90 per cent agreed with the current Canada-U.S. border closure to non-essential traffic.

The show of support comes at a time when several Canadian border cities are licking their wounds over a loss of U.S. tourism. Nevertheless, they’re maintaining their support for the border closure, to help stop the spread of COVID-19 from the country with the world’s highest number of cases and deaths.

“As much as this hurts — and it hurts — it’s all about short-term pain for long-term gain,” said Jim Diodati, mayor of Niagara Falls, Ont.

He said that pre-pandemic, U.S. tourism pumped close to $1 billion annually into the economy of Niagara Falls and its surrounding area.

Even so, Diodati said he supports the border closure, and so do around a dozen other Ontario border-town mayors who took part in a video conference call with the federal government last week.

“We’re not in a hurry to open that border until we’ve got control of what’s happening on both sides,” he said.

The Canada-U.S. border closure to non-essential traffic expires on Sept. 21. While American travellers — with the exception of some immediate family members — are barred from entering Canada, the U.S. still allows Canadians to fly to the country.

Both Ontario mayors predict the Canadian government will announce this week that it will extend the border closure for at least another 30 days.

“I think it’s kind of a foregone conclusion,” said Diodati.

U.S. numbers decline

Canadians began loudly expressing support for the Canada-U.S. border closure on social media in July, when U.S. COVID-19 case numbers were soaring to new and worrisome highs.

Since then, the U.S. numbers have declined — but Canadian support for the border closure hasn’t.

According to U.S. Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) statistics, new daily U.S. cases peaked above 70,000 in late July, then dropped to below 50,000 per day by mid-August.

“It’s going down very rapidly,” U.S. President Donald Trump said last week. He said the U.S. has done “an amazing job” combating the spread of the virus.

Despite the news, Canadians continue to warn Americans to stay away. In the latest case last week, a truck with Texas license plates in Victoria was vandalized and spray-painted with “Trump.”

For example, at a U.S. rally in June, Trump told a group of supporters — who weren’t required to wear masks — that he wanted to “slow the [COVID-19] testing down.”

Last month, the CDC changed its guidelines on COVID-19 testing to recommend that asymptomatic people who come into contact with an infected person “do not necessarily need a test.” The guideline change has been reportedly tied to Trump.

Critics have also accused Trump of downplaying the severity of the virus.

“There’s a lot of reasons why everyone in the world should be concerned about the way that this pandemic has been addressed in the United States,” said Hoffman.

Diodati of Niagara Falls predicts Canada won’t entertain discussions over reopening the Canada-U.S. border until after the U.S. election, when perhaps politics is no longer muddying the waters.

“We call this silly season when there’s an election,” he said. “Let’s let the Americans get through their election process … and then we’re going to probably have more meaningful dialogue.”