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Another month, at least, of closure to Canada

The U.S.-Canada border will stay closed for a ninth straight month, until at least Dec. 21, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and acting U.S. Department of Homeland Security chief Chad Wolf announced Friday.

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the border has been closed to non-essential travel since March. The two governments review the matter every 30 days and so far have not seen reason to lift the closure.

U.S. Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-Schuylerville, said in a statement that she remains “committed to working with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the Canadian government to establish a comprehensive plan to safely reopen the border.”

In Plattsburgh, North Country Chamber of Commerce President Garry Douglas has long lamented the continuing border closure, but on Thursday he sounded resigned to it until sometime in 2021.

“With increasing COVID-19 numbers on both sides of the border, we have had no reason to expect any relaxation of existing restrictions on non-essential border crossings at this time,” Douglas said in a press release. “Indeed, while we continue to advocate for consideration of some modest adjustments for family, property owners and essential business activity, as well as a more transparent plan for eventual transition, we should now anticipate the situation remaining mostly unchanged into the new year.”

Douglas noted that cross-border trade, which is considered essential, “continues uninterrupted in both directions” and that this is important to North Country manufacturers. Canadian company Bombardier, for instance, has a plant in Plattsburgh.

“Interest from Canadian companies in the U.S. market remains strong, setting us up for what could be a good period of investment and growth next year as we come out of this challenge,” he added. “The Chamber is conducting a virtual session with almost 20 Quebec companies next week, in fact.”

He also emphasized that without Canadian visitors, it is more important than usual to patronize local businesses during the holiday period.

“Actually, people in the area have in fact been doing this, which accounts for why local sales tax receipts are not down as much as once expected, but the holiday season is especially important for many of our small enterprises,” he said.

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