The Bulletin Board

Business leaders outline harm caused by border closure

By: - July 30, 2021 3:46 pm
Sen. Jeanne Shaheen

Sen. Jeanne Shaheen told industry leaders that sharing the challenges they’re facing as a result of the ongoing closure would help her push the State Department to reopen the border sooner. (Getty Images)

It’s time to open up.

That was the message from business and tourism leaders who highlighted the economic and interpersonal harm of the ongoing northern border closure at a roundtable hosted by Sen. Jeanne Shaheen on Friday.

While Canada has announced that it will be reopening its border to vaccinated Americans on Aug. 9, the U.S. is on a different timeline – with the possibility of reopening on Aug. 21. But even that date isn’t a sure thing, and the closure coupled with the uncertainty around reopening is a problem for New Hampshire residents and businesses, leaders said on Friday.

The U.S.-Canadian border has been closed for non-essential travel since March 2020, although people have still been able to travel between the two countries by air.

“I don’t know why we can’t get our state departments synched up so that we’re opening our border at the same time,” Shaheen said at the roundtable on Friday.

She told industry leaders that sharing the challenges they’re facing as a result of the ongoing closure would help her push the State Department to reopen the border sooner.  

Rodger Cuzner, the Canadian consul general, was also in attendance. He said communication with the Biden administration has been more consistent than with the Trump administration – officials from both governments have been meeting every two weeks – but cited the Delta variant as a new challenge.

“We continue to work toward vaccinations,” said Cuzner, who pointed to similar levels of vaccination in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and New Hampshire, which all have about 60 percent of their population vaccinated.

Cuzner said the closure’s impact on tourism is felt on both sides of the border. It is a main driver of the regional gross domestic product in eastern Canada. 

Business & Industry Association President Jim Roche said the closure has mainly affected New Hampshire’s hospitality industry, without hindering members of the organization who work in manufacturing. He pointed to “premiere properties” that the BIA represents, such as the Mountain View Grand Resort in Whitefield and The Wentworth in Jackson, as examples of businesses that have been adversely impacted by the border closure.

John Nyhan of the Hampton Area Chamber of Commerce said the closure has been “devastating” for the business community, hitting those in hospitality particularly hard.

Nyhan said current restrictions are confusing, since Canadians can come by air but are prevented from coming by road. In a typical year, 95 percent of Canadians who visit New Hampshire drive here. He said waiting until Aug. 21 to reopen would be a mistake.

“Right now we’re in the peak of visiting Canadians, and to lose this very precious three weeks is critical to us,” he said.

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Amanda Gokee
Amanda Gokee

Amanda Gokee reported on energy and environment for New Hampshire Bulletin. She also previously reported on these issues at VTDigger. Amanda grew up in Vermont and is a graduate of Harvard University. She received her master’s degree in liberal studies, with a concentration in creative writing, from Dartmouth College. Her work has also appeared in the LA Review of Books and the Valley News.