Clark has ‘very big concerns’ about opening Canada-U.S. border

Ontario Municipal Affairs Minister and Leeds-Grenville MPP Steve Clark takes part in an online town hall on Friday, May 1, 2020. Clark has big concerns about reopening the Canada-U.S. border until coronavirus case numbers flatten. (Zoom/Chambers of Commerce via Newswatch Group)

BROCKVILLE – With an agreement between Canada and the United States to keep the border closed set to expire in a little over two weeks, MPP Steve Clark says he still has “very big concerns” about opening the international border to non-essential travel.

While the municipal affairs minister doesn’t have direct responsibility, Clark says, as a member of cabinet with a shared responsibility on emergency management, he has an opportunity to express viewpoints to the federal government and is in regular meetings with Federal Public Safety Minister Bill Blair.

The border has been shut since March 21 for non-essential travel under an agreement between the two countries and was scheduled to expire in late April before it was extended a further 30 days.

“People have to realize that at these land border crossings, you look at our country, southern Ontario has almost half. Especially, with the New York State level of cases, I’ve expressed to Minister Blair my concern about opening up to non-essential travel,” Clark said during a online town hall on Friday, which was organized by the Brockville and District Chamber of Commerce and the 1000 Islands Gananoque Chamber of Commerce.

“I’ve been pretty firm that I don’t want the border opened up for non-essential travel. Goods and services is one thing but non-essential travel I still have very big concerns,” Clark said.

The municipal affairs minister says he won’t be comfortable until we see coronavirus case numbers flatten in Ontario but, more importantly, the numbers flatten in New York State. As of Monday, the Empire State has over 316,000 positive cases – roughly a third of all U.S. cases – and over 19,000 deaths.

“We certainly don’t want spread from New York State or Pennsylvania coming in our communities,” Clark said.