Removal of COVID border measures key step to Windsor’s full economic recovery


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The upcoming federal government decision to lift the remaining COVID mandates at the U.S. border is being warmly welcomed by local business, political and industry leaders as the local economy needs the jump start to return to full health.

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The Liberal government is expected to announce on Monday that it is ending mandatory vaccinations, random testing and quarantine for international travelers and making the ArriveCAN app an optional tool.

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A decision on whether to continue wearing masks on international flights and domestic trains has yet to be made.

“This is great for economic development and for business here in the community,” said Windsor Mayor Drew Dilkens.

Getting that business back will be a challenge

“The lifting of the vaccination requirement, the removal of the ArriveCAN requirement, I think will send a very positive signal to people who want to cross the border because we have removed the friction and the barriers at the border.

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“We know we live in a border community, it’s so important to have as little friction as possible when crossing the border.”

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Rakesh Naidu, CEO and President of the Windsor-Essex Regional Chamber of Commerce, is shown speaking to reporters in Tecumseh in this October 13, 2021 file photo.
Rakesh Naidu, CEO and President of the Windsor-Essex Regional Chamber of Commerce, is shown speaking to reporters in Tecumseh in this October 13, 2021 file photo. Photo by Dan Janisse /Windsor Star

The Council decision of the federal government to approve the border measures expires on September 30th.
Windsor Regional Chamber of Commerce CEO Rakesh Naidu said local businesses breathed a “collective sigh of relief” at the expiring mandates.

“We wished that, but it would have been nice if it had come sooner,” Naidu said.

“We lost the summer season. We only see about half the visitors we used to have.”

Naidu added that the economic pain caused by the border measures is not isolated in the economy.

“Multiple sectors have been impacted, from manufacturing to hospitality, tourism, wineries and retail,” Naidu said.

“Unfortunately, I think we lost some people (American visitors) permanently.

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“Business (in manufacturing) has been lost because companies have found American suppliers or partners. It will be a challenge to get that business back.”

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Gordon Orr, CEO of Tourism Windsor Essex Pelee Island is pictured outside his downtown office on Saturday May 23, 2020.
Gordon Orr, CEO of Tourism Windsor Essex Pelee Island is pictured outside his downtown office on Saturday May 23, 2020. Photo by Dax Melmer /Windsor Star

Statistics Canada data on the number of American visitors to Canada (2.2 million) in July 2022, released this month, is 60.7 percent of July 2019 levels.

Day trips by car remain at 55.8 percent (155,200) of pre-pandemic levels.

In July, 2.6 million Canadians walked the other way, which is 60.1 percent of the July 2019 figure.

“No other community in the country, save for another border community, has been so devastated by the ArriveCAN app,” said Gordon Orr, CEO of Windsor Essex Pelee Island Tourism.

“It killed spontaneous travel. All of those experiences, like gaming, the wineries, the retail, Americans could find alternatives. Once they break a habit, it’s hard to get it back.”

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Orr said the tourism/hospitality industry is unlikely to fully recover before 2024.

Debi Croucher, Executive Director of the Downtown Business Improvement Association, oversees the establishment of Friday, July 24, 2020 road closures.
Debi Croucher, Executive Director of the Downtown Business Improvement Association, oversees the establishment of Friday, July 24, 2020 road closures. Photo by Dax Melmer /Windsor Star

Downtown Windsor Business Improvement Association executive director Debi Croucher is confident American tourists will be eager to return to the area.

“The new border measures are certainly great news for downtown businesses,” Croucher said.

“Downtown businesses have long enjoyed the patronage of American visitors, and we look forward to their return. We anticipate an influx of American visitors downtown in October, which bodes well for members and tourism downtown and the wider region.”

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There is general agreement that the first step in rebuilding American tourism is an awareness campaign about the repeal of mandates and a reminder of why tourists should return.

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Wyandotte Town Center Business Improvement Association chairman Larry Horwitz believes efforts must be sustained.

“I think Americans will be shy about coming back here,” Horwitz said.

“The rest of the world got rid of this stuff a long time ago. People are confused about what is required to cross.

“I think we’re going to hurt for a while.”

Laval Tool International President Jonathon Azzopardi said the lifting of the package of border measures had been used by competing American firms against Canadian firms in contract bids.

“Any disability in doing business in Canada matters,” Azzopardi said.

“It’s just another blow to Canada. Whenever they have something with us, they wave it around.

“Getting rid of these things had to be done and probably a few months ago.”

Azzopardi added that it’s often easier to get deals by crossing over to the US side than to subject American customers to the border.

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