July 10, 2021 user

A majority of Canadians would support scrapping all pandemic-related restrictions at the Canada-U.S. border by the fall, a new survey indicates.

A poll conducted by Nanos Research for The Globe and Mail found that 15 per cent of Canadians felt all restrictions should be removed immediately. Fourteen per cent wanted them removed sometime this summer and another 34 per cent indicated they would prefer fall.

Taken together, that’s 63 per cent of Canadians in favour of being able to travel freely to the United States by the fall or sooner. Another 16 per cent indicated they would prefer the border restrictions to stay in place until next year. The remaining 21 per cent said they were unsure.

The poll of 1,051 Canadian residents was conducted June 30 to July 5. It’s considered accurate to within 3.1 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is facing calls to relax COVID-19 border measures. The 8,800-kilometre Canada-U.S. land border has been closed to non-essential travellers since March 21, 2020. It’s currently closed to leisure travel until at least July 21.

Business groups have urged Mr. Trudeau to reopen the border and allow all fully vaccinated foreign travellers to enter, warning that empty convention centres, cancelled music festivals and reduced demand for hotels and wilderness tours are costing the country’s valuable tourism sector billions of dollars. Destination Canada, a federal Crown corporation, has estimated that more than half a million tourism jobs were lost as a result of the pandemic in 2020.

Statistics Canada said that in 2019 – the year before the pandemic – this country received a record 22.1 million foreign tourists, and 15 million of them were from the United States.

The Nanos poll found Canadians are leery about reopening solely to help the economy. A strong majority of respondents – 79 per cent – said public health is more important than the economy and jobs when it comes to making decisions about the border. Eighteen per cent of those surveyed said jobs and the economy should be the overriding factors, and 3 per cent were unsure.

Pollster Nik Nanos said it appears the average Canadian isn’t on exactly the same page as the business community.

“If you’re a major business advocate for opening the border you have to realize that for average Canadians, they still think of the pandemic. They’re not thinking of jobs and the economy or vacationing in Florida.”

Residents of the Prairies were more likely than other Canadians to say that the economy and jobs should be the most important factors in reopening the border.

On Thursday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau acknowledged the demand to allow entry of fully vaccinated foreign tourists.

The next step “will be looking at what measures we can allow for international travelers who are fully vaccinated,” Mr. Trudeau said. “That will be our first focus, and we will have more to say in the coming weeks.”

The poll also found a majority of Canadians are satisfied with the job the federal government has done in managing the Canada-U.S. border since the outset of the pandemic. The survey asked respondents to rate the government’s performance from one to 10. Sixty per cent gave the government a score of seven or higher. Thirty-eight per cent gave lower scores and 2 per cent were unsure.

The average rating from Ontario respondents was 6.2 out of 10, and the average from the Prairies was 5.5.

The Canadian government has said it would like 75 per cent of eligible Canadians to be fully vaccinated before it loosens border rules. According to covidtracker.ca, more than 46 per cent of Canadians have had all their shots. Ottawa has said it expects to have received enough vaccines by the end of July to fully vaccinate every person eligible.

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