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Canada must be tough on border as Trump rolls out COVID-19 reopening plan: experts

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U.S. President Donald Trump‘s desire to gradually reopen the country amid the COVID-19 pandemic makes it all the more important for Canada and the U.S. to stay on the same page about borders, according to experts.

“Canada is going to have to be tougher with the border than the U.S. is willing to be,” said Matthew Lebo, the chair of political science at Western University.

“As the U.S. loosens up, if there are outbreaks near Canadian borders, then Canada has got to be careful about the traffic it lets go back and forth, whether that be health-care workers in Windsor or Niagara Falls that go back and forth, or otherwise.”

The new approach out of the neighbouring country is significantly different from where Canada stands now.

The White House released a series of recommendations on Thursday that call for a gradual, three-phase reopening of businesses and schools to revive economic activity. The gradual reopening rests on declining infections and strong testing. It’s up to state governments to ultimately act on the guidelines as they see fit.

In Canada, the country is effectively on lockdown, with non-essential businesses ordered to stay closed for varying — mostly undetermined — periods and bans on large gatherings.

In the short run, given the density in some parts of the U.S., some of Trump’s phased plan makes sense, said Chris Sands, the director of the Canada Institute at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.

If the plan works, Canadians themselves might feel enticed to see the same recommendations come for its leaders, he said.

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“In that sense, it won’t be a bilateral issue. But, you know, our citizens shop and compare… I don’t think any politician wants to be on the wrong side of people who are frustrated and want to get back to work.”

But it’s pressure over border travel measures that might swell first, he said, and it will “come from the bottom up.”

“Citizens will want to work,” he said, “and businesses with supply chains that cross the border will call for coordinated re-opening.”

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