It's too soon to talk about reopening Canada-U.S. border, says Dominic LeBlanc

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A brewing controversy alleging cronyism and conflict of interest involving a clam fishing licence awarded by Fisheries Minister Dominic LeBlanc may not be grabbing national attention — but it should be, says a Conservative MP. (Andrew Vaughan/Canadian Press - image credit)
A brewing controversy alleging cronyism and conflict of interest involving a clam fishing licence awarded by Fisheries Minister Dominic LeBlanc may not be grabbing national attention — but it should be, says a Conservative MP. (Andrew Vaughan/Canadian Press - image credit)

There's too much uncertainty about the pandemic's path in the coming months for the federal government to engage in discussions about reopening the Canada-U.S. border, said Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Dominic LeBlanc.

"This doesn't feel like the right moment to have those conversations," LeBlanc told CBC News Network's Power & Politics.

"We do recognize, as vaccination rates go up and, hopefully, as we see the public health measures that are in place now bring down those case counts, there will be a conversation that we can have both with the American administration and with provinces and territories about what is the right posture at the international borders.

"But for the moment, there's no active discussion [about] adjusting those measures."

LeBlanc said his government needs more detailed advice from scientists about the impact of the vaccine rollout and how effective it will be in reducing transmission and infection rates.

"All of those conversations I know are taking place with scientists," he said. "We don't feel, as a government, that we have enough ... robust scientific advice to lay out a map with so many uncertainties."

LeBlanc said that he understands Canadians are hoping to have a somewhat normal summer this year — to visit family in other provinces and enjoy a vacation — but interprovincial travel is an area of provincial responsibility.

"Everybody wants to work together to get there, but we don't pretend to have a clear line of sight on what that point is now," he said.

The Canada-U.S. border has been closed to all non-essential traffic now for more than a year. That closure was extended recently to April 21.

New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs said that in his meeting with the other premiers and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau Wednesday evening, the PM told leaders it's possible that surplus U.S. vaccines could find their way into Canada in time to reopen the border for the summer.

"He suggested that it is a possibility yes, and he does think there is a, I guess, a mutual interest there that would be respected. But are there any commitments at this point? No, there are not," Higgs told Power & Politics on Wednesday.

"The reality of having a summer where it's almost normal, with vaccines in, say, 70-80 per cent of the population, I think it does give us hope and it could happen quickly. They are producing a lot of vaccines in the U.S."