WASHINGTON, D.C. — Senator Jon Tester (D-MT) believes the U.S. can convince Canada to re-open its borders to normal traffic if more people follow through on getting their COVID shots.
We've been telling you about the emotional turmoil facing residents in Montana's border communities from the continued pandemic shutdown of the Canadian border.
Families in towns like Eureka are either paying thousands of dollars to travel and enduring long quarantines to see one another or separations of more than a year.
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Sen. Tester says it has also impacted his farming operations in Big Sandy, showing the business impact.
“I always tell folks that oftentimes Montanans have more in common with the folks north of the border than we do with people east of the Mississippi and it's true. And not only seeing relatives but you know for trade. I mean, I would love to run up there and get some certified seed," Sen. Tester told MTN News.
"But getting across the border and getting back into the United States as a as a real task right now. And so we've got to work with Canada. We got to work with our Customs and Border Protection and the CDC and get it so we can start doing business as usual with our friends to the North and they can do business with us," he continued.
Canadian restrictions have gotten even tighter, with case counts up and hard travel restrictions in place across British Columbia.
“I have already been talking to the Administration about how we can work with Canada to get the border open. I've been doing that for the last several months because they are such an important trading partner," Sen. Tester noted.
But while a political solution develops, Sen. Tester believes vaccinations are key. He recognizes there's resistance by some, but says the border opening hinges on proof of COVID-19 safety.
“And it gives us a real tool if we can say ‘you know what guys? 70% of people in Montana are vaccinated we need to open this border up," Sen. Tester said. "And I think it gives a tool and it will help us get that border open and get life back to normal. Get this pandemic in a rearview mirror and it sets a great example to the world that the United States can lead on this issue.”
British Columbia recently extended its province-wide restrictions through May 25th.
“Since President Biden took office, the southern border has been wide open to the flow of illegal drugs and a surge of illegal immigrants," Sen. Steve Daines (R-MT) said in a statement provided to MTN News. "Meanwhile, Montanans continue to be impacted as the northern border remains locked down. Montana small businesses and communities depend on cross-border tourism and travel to support jobs. With vaccinations on the rise and covid cases on the decline, It’s time for Biden to acknowledge this and reopen the northern border.”
In March, Senator Daines wrote a letter urging the Biden Administration to allow non-essential travel between Montana and Canada to boost Montana jobs, Montana agriculture and Montana small businesses.