Manitoba border community faces coronavirus-related economic struggles, rising floodwaters

The Canada/US border at Emerson. Canada Border Security Agency

While communities across the country are struggling to deal with the new reality of the COVID-19 pandemic, some areas hit especially hard are those near the Canada/U.S. border, where greatly reduced traffic compared to just a few months ago is having an impact.

In the Rural Municipality of Emerson-Franklin, home to border crossings at Emerson and Tolstoi, commercial traffic continues to flow between the countries, but local reeve Dave Carlson told 680 CJOB that the lack of regular traffic has impacted the lives of local residents.

If you look at it one way, it’s quality of life,” said Carlson.

“A lot of people do take advantage of crossing the border right there, whether it’s for a bit of shopping or recreation and things like that. We even have mutual aid agreements for our emergency services, so that affects things.”

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Economically, he said, businesses that typically get heavy business from American visitors — like the local duty-free shop, a big local employer — are hurting with only commercial traffic coming through.

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On top of pandemic-related struggles, the RM is also facing the annual Red River flood.

“We’re looking at last year’s flood [level] plus an extra foot… but it’s almost looking more like two feet and a bit,” said Carlson.

A number of roads close to the river are being closed in the area, and the reeve said there are currently a couple local residents cut off from roads by rising water.

“We’re keeping a close eye on it,” he said. “We have a couple people cut off. They will boat in and out… but we’re monitoring it closely.

“We’re working with our municipal emergency coordinator on this, we check on everybody and make sure they’re OK.”

Overland flooding is also an issue for local farmers. Carslon said the receding waters leave piles of debris all over local fields, and that the RM had to deal with 50 miles of debris clean-up in 2019 — which, in turn, delays farmers’ abilities to seed.

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“Our hopes are that the water gets out of here is quickly as possible and we can get back to business,” he said.

“The economy’s taking a beating as it is. You just don’t need a flood on top of that.”

Click to play video: 'Response to COVID-19 in Emerson-Franklin'
Response to COVID-19 in Emerson-Franklin

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