U.S. border reopening brings normal one step closer for Estevan residents, businesses

·3 min read
Residents from the City of Estevan, located about 15 kilometres from the United States border, are pleased to hear fully vaccinated Canadians can enter the country starting in early November.  (Glenn Reid/CBC - image credit)
Residents from the City of Estevan, located about 15 kilometres from the United States border, are pleased to hear fully vaccinated Canadians can enter the country starting in early November. (Glenn Reid/CBC - image credit)

Estevan, Sask., residents are relieved to hear that the United States will finally be allowing Canadians to travel by land and ferry into the country, about three months after Canada opened its borders.

Senior U.S. officials announced Tuesday night that fully vaccinated Canadians would be able travel into the United States at land and ferry border crossings beginning in early November, although an exact date is still in the works.

Canada opened its borders to United States citizens on Aug. 9 after the divide between the two countries was closed to non-essential travel early into the COVID-19 pandemic.

Estevan mayor Roy Ludwig said he's excited about the opportunity for residents to go south and see friends and family, and doesn't see any downsides to the decision.

"With us being a border community, we're very happy because we do have traffic back and forth," he said. "For myself, our son works in Texas so it will give us the opportunity now to go down and see him."

Ludwig said he had heard anecdotes of people having to fly to do that previously, which caused some complicated and expensive workarounds.

Dayne Patterson/CBC
Dayne Patterson/CBC

While land and ferry border crossings are expected to open in the next month, residents have been able to fly into the U.S. for non-essential travel since the pandemic began.

"I know one group that went to Yorkton and got on a six-seater plane and then they flew to Minot and then they had a local trucking company take their vehicles across," Ludwig said.

"So there were ways that you could do it. But, again, expensive. I think it was around $600 a vehicle to haul them over, and then the plane ride," he said.

Residents and businesses awaiting the reopening

Reopening the border to fully vaccinated Canadians would allow Monique Ley, an internationally competitive bowler, the opportunity to train.

Ley hasn't been in a lane outside the country since February 2020. She said with an international tournament coming up in Dubai, it would have been helpful to bowl in competitions down south.

Instead, she's been using the lanes in Estevan.

Ley also works at an agricultural dealership in Estevan. She said customers used to be able to easily get farm equipment from dealerships in the U.S.

In one instance during the pandemic, a farmer had to make a lengthy trip through multiple airports to get a piece of equipment in a journey that would typically take a half hour by land. Meanwhile customers from the U.S. don't currently have that problem.

"It's just been very frustrating."

Cross-border business dealings haven't been the top priority for many businesses, according to Jackie Wall, Estevan Chamber of Commerce executive director. The main focus is working through vaccine certificates and the regulations that go with them.

But she expects reopening the border will make business dealings easier.

"It's just one more changing reality that everyone is going to be dealing with and I'm cautiously optimistic that this is a good sign that we're going to get to a new normal at some point," Wall said.

Concern over vaccine mixing

Lee St.Onge, also an Estevan resident, agreed that it's a good move to reopen the border, and is ready to return to MLB games or hitting the links for a round of golf. But he's concerned his vaccines could be a problem.

The U.S. has not approved the mixing of vaccine doses or the AstraZeneca vaccine for its own citizens.

St.Onge received the AstraZeneca vaccine and is worried that when the border reopens, he'll be stuck on one side of it.

"We did what Canada asked and got [the] quickest vaccine available," he wrote in an online message. "I would hope Canada [didn't] screw us."

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