Premier Doug Ford says that he is opposed to reopening the border with the United States any time soon, especially given the recent surge in COVID-19 cases in many southern states.
In March, Canada and the U.S. agreed to temporary close the border to non-essential travel while keeping it open for commerce.
Since then the agreement has been extended on a number of occasions with the most iteration lasting until at least July 21.
At this point it is unclear whether the border closure will be extended again, though Ford said at his daily briefing on Friday that he has already told Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland that he is not supportive of opening it up this month.
His comments come after a group of 29 U.S. Congress members wrote an open letter to Public Safety Minister Bill Blair asking the Canadian government to agree to a phased reopening of the border and to consider easing some existing measures.
“I said very clearly I am not in favour of opening up the borders July 21,” Ford said of a recent conversation with Freeland. “As long as the goods and products are flowing which they have been (we should keep it closed). I love our American neighbours but not right now. Come and visit us when things cool down, especially south of the border.”
The U.S. recorded nearly 60,000 new cases of COVID-19 on Friday, including a near-record 11,433 in Florida alone.
In Canada, meanwhile, transmission of the virus continues to wane and over the last week there have been about 380 new cases per day on average.
The disparity has many Canadians calling for the border to remain closed with a Nanos Research poll earlier this week suggesting that 81 per cent of residents don’t want it to open right now.
Nonetheless, there is increasing pressure from some in the U.S. to reopen the border.
The bipartisan group of congressmen who wrote to Blair, all of which represents districts that border on Canada, said that the month-to-month approach has “prolonged uncertainty” and created “unnecessary tension.”
They said that while they understand the “importance of prioritizing the safety of our communities” the social and economic partnerships between the U.S. and Canada “necessitates a clear pathway forward.”
For his part, Ford conceded that the border will “eventually” be reopened but he said that he wants federal officials to be “very cautious” right now.
“I talked to a very smart doctor the other day and I said ‘Doc when do you think the second wave is coming?’ and he said ‘Doug, as soon as you open up the border to international travel that is when you are going to get hit.’ So that is concerning,” he said. "You know, he's a medical professional, I'm not. So, I'm listening to the medical professionals."
There have now been more than three million confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the United States, making it the hardest-hit country in the world.
There have also been more than 133,000 deaths.
Speaking with CP24 earlier on Friday, infectious disease specialist Dr. Issac Bogoch said that Canada is now at the point where it has the pandemic mostly under control and the United States is “the complete opposite.”
He said that so long as that is the case, the border should be closed.
“If we reopen our border we are going to import more cases to Canada and we could undo everything we have done here which would be really upsetting,” he said. “I think it should be closed for the foreseeable future.”