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B.C. travellers gear up to head south on eve of U.S. border reopening

Click to play video: 'B.C. travellers gear up to head south on eve of U.S. border reopening'
B.C. travellers gear up to head south on eve of U.S. border reopening
Thousands of Canadians are getting ready to head south this week after the U.S. lifts restrictions on recreational border crossings on Monday. Grace Ke reports – Nov 7, 2021

It’s virtually a 15-minute drive from the Canadian border to Rob Widdowson’s recreational property in Birch Bay, Wash., but the B.C. resident hasn’t seen it in nearly two years.

Widdowson is one of thousands of Canadians ready to head south this week after the U.S. lifts restrictions on recreational border crossings on Monday.

“I can’t get wait to get in and see what’s happened to it, how tall the weeds are,” he said of his trailer.

Read more: U.S. border is reopening to Canada. What you need to know before you travel

Widdowson said he’s been lucky that the trailer is parked in a gated community with security, and that he happened to clean it out before his family returned home from their last trip prior to the winter of 2019.

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“We weren’t sure when we were going to be back … we pulled all the bedding, all the food out. My brother next door, he unfortunately left some things in his fridge.”

Click to play video: 'COVID-19: U.S. opening land border to fully-vaccinated Canadians on Monday'
COVID-19: U.S. opening land border to fully-vaccinated Canadians on Monday

While fully-vaccinated Canadians are once again being welcomed south of the border, they’ll still face hurdles on the way home.

The issue that’s raised the most controversy is the requirement for returning travellers to show a negative COVID-19 test result that is not more than 72-hours old, regardless of their vaccination status. Several test types are acceptable, but rapid antigen tests will not be accepted.

Read more: How should Canadians prepare for a 1-day trip to the U.S. once the border reopens?

“Canadian travellers who wish to enter the U.S. for less than 72 hours, they could take that test within Canada and use that as proof on reentry to Canada,” explained Jakie Tse, acting regional programs manager for the Canada Border Service Agency’s Pacific region.

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“But if their test is more than 72 hours old, they must do a new PCR test or pre-arrival test in the United States.”

Travellers will also need to upload that information into the ArriveCAN app.

It’s a requirement that’s drawn significant criticism both from travellers and from business and tourism groups, who say it will strongly discourage casual and short-term travel for several reasons.

Click to play video: 'Canadian snowbirds eager to flock across U.S. land border'
Canadian snowbirds eager to flock across U.S. land border

“Cost is probably the single biggest one,” said Mike Agnew, senior vice-president of policy and government relations with the Canadian Chamber of Commerce.

The cost of a PCR rest can range from $200 to $250, he said, easily hitting $1,000 for a family.

“That’s adding essentially more than the price of a whole other flight ticket,” he said.

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Read more: End ‘irrational’ COVID-19 testing at U.S. border, Canadian tourism group says

The Canadian Chamber of Commerce is one of several groups pushing the federal government to drop the testing requirement for vaccinated travellers.

“It’s not about saying completely open up the floodgates and not have any safeguard measures. We’re really clear about saying it’s drop these pre-departure tests for fully vaccinated travellers,” Agnew said.

That could be a possibility in the weeks to come. On Friday, federal chief public health officer, Dr. Theresa Tam, said the testing policy was being “actively looked at.”

Widdowson said he’s hopeful the requirement is dropped sooner than later.

Normally he’d bring his family of four down to their Birch Bay property, but due to the cost of a PCR test, he’s going down alone this time.

“Who could spend an extra $1,000 to go down to a place you own? It’s ridiculous. for now, it’s just me, go down to check things out,” he said.

“Everything is time and money. It’s unfortunate. Hopefully they come to their senses.”

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