Border Mayors Call on Feds to Abolish ArriveCAN App



A group of mayors and businesses from communities along the Canada-US border are calling on the federal government to end the ArriveCAN app, saying it discourages Americans from visiting and shopping in Canada.

Mayor Mike Bradley of Sarnia, Ont., said the app was a disaster and is no longer needed.

“When you mount a dead horse, get off the horse,” he said. “That’s what the federal government needs to do.”

In an interview with CBC News Network, Bradley said he doesn’t think the government is listening to his concerns about the app and its effect on tourism in border communities, even as the government drops other public health measures. .

“All the other things are disappearing, yet here we are, the main points of entry into Canada, and we’re still being turned away,” he said.

People line the streets of tourist areas in Niagara Falls, Ont., Friday, July 16, 2021. (Peter Power/The Canadian Press)

Bradley further said that he recently heard of American tourists who canceled a trip to Canada because the app is still needed to cross the border.

Niagara Falls Mayor Jim Diodati said his community depended on tourism and the 10 million people who crossed the border each year before the pandemic.

“We usually have a traffic jam,” Diodati told reporters. “This year, with this uncertainty, confusion and maze of rules at the border with this ArriveCAN app, it will be a disaster at the border if Americans even choose to come.”

The ArriveCAN app was introduced during the pandemic to allow travelers to report their trips and vaccination status. Ottawa requires travelers to use the ArriveCAN mobile app, or its desktop versionto submit their travel and health information related to COVID-19 before arriving in Canada.

Travelers who do not may face a 14-day quarantine and even a $5,000 fine.

The calls to drop the app come a day after the federal government announced it was easing a number of restrictions introduced during the pandemic. It did not announce that it was removing the ArriveCAN app.

NDP MP Richard Cannings, whose South Okanagan-West Kootenay riding in British Columbia includes six border crossings, said trade was down 95% for some of the businesses in his riding.

“We really depend, in normal times, on this cross-border traffic,” he said.

Cannings said he would like to see the government put in place a system that keeps Canadians safe while allowing businesses to continue.

Cannings said some of his constituents find the ArriveCAN app difficult to use.

“My constituents are very worried because a lot of seniors don’t have a phone, don’t know what an app is and yet they have to produce it when they return to Canada,” he said.

Government ‘punished border communities’: spokesperson

Barbara Barrett is Executive Director of the Frontier Duty Free Association, the industry association for Canada’s land border duty free shops. She said border communities are “the hardest hit of the hardest hit”.

“Border communities during the pandemic have been penalized by harsh federal measures that have not been applied to air travel or domestic travel,” she said. “Inexplicably, this federal government has punished border communities with inconsistent and inconsistent border travel rules.”

Barrett said Tuesday’s “timid” government announcement showed Ottawa did not understand the plight of border communities.

“Border businesses that depend on U.S. tourism are still down 50% from 2019,” she said.

Diodati said the past two years have been devastating for tourism in the Niagara region.

WATCH | Border communities call on Ottawa to get rid of ArriveCAN:

ArriveCan app harms cross-border tourism, communities say

Border communities that rely on tourism say continued COVID-19 vaccine requirements and the ArriveCan app are hurting businesses and the economy.

He called on the government to take the extra money it plans to spend on the ArriveCAN app and give it to municipalities to help them attract tourists.

“What’s happening right now is Americans showing up in their vans with their families at the border not knowing about the ArriveCAN app,” Diodati said. “They don’t have roaming, they can’t download the app, there’s a line of cars behind them, they can’t enter the country.

“If you bother your customers they come back and tell all their friends and many people are bypassing Canada and it will have lasting effects on this country.”

Diodati said he speaks regularly with mayors across the border in the United States

Corporate America now has the advantage: Mayor

“They love the situation right now,” he said. “Canadians can easily and freely travel to the United States and spend all of our hard-earned disposable income. And with the latest measure removing vaccination mandates for unvaccinated Canadians to travel to the United States, again this gives us a chance to spend all of our money in the United States, but we are not reciprocating. »

Pauline Quinlan, former mayor of the Quebec town of Bromont, said the app was unnecessary and discouraged tourism in her area.

Bradley said mayors from border communities used to meet regularly with the federal government during the pandemic. Now, he says, they are not consulted and the government is not responding to their needs.

“It’s like a boa constrictor on our communities that just squeezes the economy when we should be going the other way,” he said.

US Congressman Brian Higgins, whose district includes Buffalo and Niagara Falls, echoed the call for the removal of the ArriveCAN app.

“The ArriveCAN app and other restrictions continue to be a barrier to the free movement of people across the northern border,” Higgins said in a press release.

“My office regularly receives calls from residents of Western New York who are frustrated and confused by the technology and the frequently changing and disjointed requirements for passage between the United States and Canada. Therefore, to work around the uncertainty and the hassle it creates, many avoid crossing the border entirely.”

Appearing before the House of Commons International Trade Committee, Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) Vice-President Denis Vinette said the ArriveCAN app has allowed its officers to check passengers more faster than the old paper system allowed. He said the app has improved flow across the border and minimized delays.

As of May 2, more than 99% of air travelers and 94% of people crossing at land borders were using the ArriveCAN app, Vinette said.

The CBSA says it plans to add customs declarations to the ArriveCAN app.

“Later this month, we will be rolling out, in the ArriveCAN app, advance declarations where someone coming to the border can pre-submit their customs and immigration declaration,” Vinette told the committee.

Marie-Hélène Lévesque, director general of compliance and enforcement at the Public Health Agency of Canada, described the app as a valuable tool that has helped mitigate the risks of COVID-19 in international travel . While she acknowledged the delays at the border, she said it wasn’t because of enforcement.

App not effective against COVID: Tourism industry leader

Testifying before the trade committee on Wednesday, Beth Potter, president and CEO of the Tourism Industry Association of Canada (TIAC), said the app is a problem for travelers and has failed to significantly reduce the transmission of COVID-19.

“I would say the mandatory use of ArriveCAN is no longer necessary for COVID-related purposes,” she told the committee.

“ArriveCAN has not proven to be the effective tool to stop COVID. It is widely seen as a travel barrier and causes significant delays upon arrival in Canada.

Beth Potter, president and CEO of the Tourism Industry Association of Canada, said ArriveCAN “hasn’t proven to be the effective tool to stop COVID.” (Radio Canada)

Potter said the app is particularly difficult to use for American day travelers to Canada, as they can’t always fill out sections that ask for the address they’re going to, for example, or a place where they can quarantine themselves.

Mark Weber, national president of the Customs and Immigration Union, said the app has CBSA officers acting as “computer consultants” for travellers.

“It’s an incredible waste of resources. It’s a waste of time,” he told committee members.

But Weber said enforcement isn’t the only thing causing delays at ports of entry. Lack of staff is also a problem, he said.

“Even if the decision is to no longer use the app, the lack of staff we have on the front line will still cause delays. This is something that also needs to be addressed,” he said.

Windsor West NDP MP Brian Masse didn’t mince words on ArriveCAN.

“I can assure you that if each time the Parliamentarians were to return to [Parliamentary] Get around and use ArriveCAN, we wouldn’t have this app,” he told the committee.

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