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Surrey Board of Trade proposes 'border bubbles' after closure extended

The U.S. port of entry into Blaine, Wash., is seen in Surrey, B.C., on Wednesday, March 18, 2020. Public Safety Minister Bill Blair says restrictions at the Canada-U.S. border will be extended another 30 days due to the COVID-19 pandemic. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Summary

Surrey Board of Trade is proposing bubbles to allow crossings between provinces, states managing COVID-19 well

Federal government extends ban on non-essential travel between Canada and the U.S. across the border into September

Surrey seeing some businesses close as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic

SURREY (NEWS 1130) — The Surrey Board of Trade supports the border closure extension, but is proposing bubbles to allow crossings between provinces and states that are managing COVID-19 better than others.

The federal government extended the ban on non-essential travel between Canada and the U.S. across the land border on Friday for another month, until Sept. 21.

The border was first shut down to all-but-essential traffic in March. It is the fifth time the closure has been extended.

Anita Huberman, CEO with the Surrey Board of Trade, said extending the border closure is the right decision.

“It’s a critical, necessary decision made by both the federal and U.S. governments, given the number of increased cases of the virus in the United States,” she added.

However, Huberman said the business group wants a system established that would allow crossings between provinces and states where safe.

“We have been asking the federal government to perhaps look at the national border, across our country. Perhaps there are bubbles that could be opened between those states and those provinces that are doing well,” she added.

Huberman, though, said the federal government has not shown any support for a border-bubble approach.

She said the border closure continues to hurt the hospitality and tourism industries in the Lower Mainland, as well as the small business sector that relies on border traffic in particular.

Some businesses, Hunerman added, have faired better during the pandemic than others, including those deemed essential and still allowed to cross the border.

“We have the greatest number of manufacturers in British Columbia right here in Surrey,” she said. “They were able to remain open.”

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Development, construction, and agriculture sectors have also continued to move products across the border, she added.

However, some Surrey businesses have closed as a result of the pandemic and border closure.

“Absolutely we are seeing some businesses close as a result of what is happening in our local economy.”

The board of trade has asked the federal government, including Small Business Minister Mary Ng, to look at the national border. Huberman said border bubbles have also been brought up by the Canadian Chamber of Commerce in Ottawa to help hospitality and tourism businesses, along with economic support.

“We are seeing businesses close right now as a result of that border,” Huberman said.

“Some businesses are innovating. Some businesses are continuing to survive. But it all depends on when those support programs run out, and that will be the real test of our economy.”

-with files from Hana Mae Nassar and Cormac Mac Sweeney