Canada's PM Trudeau gets leeway from voters on slower US border reopening

OTTAWA (BLOOMBERG) – Mr Justin Trudeau is beginning to sketch out a plan to reopen the US border, but Canadians don’t appear keen to rush it. And when travel does resume, they overwhelmingly agree proof of vaccination should be mandatory.

Nearly half of respondents in an Angus Reid Institute poll released on Wednesday (May 26) said the world’s longest undefended frontier should remain closed until at least September. More than three quarters said they would support a vaccine passport.

Canada’s border with the United States has been closed to most non-essential traffic for more than a year to limit the spread of Covid-19. But with the Liberal government’s vaccine campaign accelerating, Trudeau is facing calls from business groups and the main opposition Conservatives for a concrete reopening plan.

Since the prime minister is weighing whether to trigger an election in a bid to win back his parliamentary majority, the politics of the timeline are key.

“Past Conservative voters are far more likely to advocate an ‘open it up sooner’ stance than past Liberal or New Democratic Party voters,” Ms Shachi Kurl, executive director of the Vancouver-based polling firm, said by email.

“But, regardless of how you vote, people want to travel again. If you are one of millions of Canadians who work in the hospitality or tourism sector, you want to get back to work and see visitors return,” she said.

Last week, Mr Trudeau’s government announced another month-long extension of border restrictions until June 21.

Only 23 per cent of respondents in the Angus Reid poll said they would like it to have reopened already. That suggests Canadians are still concerned about the path of the Covid-19 and its variants as the country’s vaccine campaign gathers momentum after a slow start plagued by delivery delays and confusion.

The prime minister, in a press briefing on Tuesday, said that over the Victoria Day long weekend Canada passed 50 per cent in terms of proportion of its population that’s received a first dose. And the three largest provinces – Ontario, Quebec and British Columbia – have announced phased reopening plans.

“There are lots of reasons to be hopeful but that doesn’t mean we can let our guard down yet,” Mr Trudeau told reporters in Ottawa.

Earlier this month, he began to set the stage for looser public-health restrictions but warned there was much to be done before a “two-dose fall” in which Canadians could enjoy a more substantial return to normal after a gruelling pandemic.

“Ultimately, the freedoms of a ‘one-dose summer’ may prove inadequate to a pandemic fatigued country, and that may well extend to border reopening timelines as well,” Ms Kurl said. “The next month will be telling.”

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