The Member of Parliament for Provencher says he lobbied hard for his border communities and now he has received what he was asking for.
On Friday, three ports of entry in Provencher returned to their pre-pandemic operational hours of service. Ports at Piney, South Junction and Tolstoi were all operating with reduced hours since July 2020. But, Canada's Minister of Public Safety, Marc Mendicino announced earlier in the week that beginning Friday, those three ports of entry would see the following hours:
- Piney open from 9 am to 10 pm
- South Junction open from 8 am to midnight
- Tolstoi open from 8 am to 10 pm
"What we're seeing now is a restoration of those hours to three of those ports and that's just very exciting," says Ted Falk.
Falk notes he is especially excited for the residents and commercial users that rely on longer hours of operation. He says there is a considerable amount of product that moves through those three ports of entry and the reduced hours was forcing some haulers to drive considerable extra distances when transporting their commodities.
"This is really good news," he says. "Really good news for our border communities who have a lot of commonalities with their neighbours across the line. And I know that they are very excited about it."
Falk says for many residents living along the border in Provencher, they drive south for their health care, to play sports or even to go grocery shopping. For those residents he refers to this as a huge win and big deal, noting he is very happy for them.
Falk says he has been hearing from many of his upset constituents since these changes happened in 2020. As a result, Falk says he has lobbied the Liberal government, by writing letters and speaking directly to the Minister of Health and Minister of Public Safety. Not only that, but the Provencher MP has also met with his U.S. counterparts in Minnesota and North Dakota, asking them to put pressure on the Biden Administration as well.
"I think all of those efforts are paying off," notes Falk.
Unlike Piney Reeve Wayne Anderson, who has indicated that he feared the temporarily reduced hours would stay permanent, Falk says he remained confident and hopeful.
"I've spoken with Reeve Anderson on that issue as well and he's done a tremendous job of working for his citizens and advocating for them," notes Falk. "But I was quite hopeful that once all the border restrictions would be lifted that also the hours of service would be returned to pre-COVID levels."
The crossings at Piney, South Junction and Tolstoi are only three out of 39 land ports of entry across Canada that are having their operational hours of service returned to normal. Falk says the same sentiment towards the reduced hours was being felt from coast to coast, on both sides of the border.
Meanwhile, Falk says when he first learned the news that ports of entry would have their regular hours of operation returned, his initial thought was that there is a strong expectation from Canada Border Services Agency that the Canada/ U.S. border will be fully restored to pre-COVID conditions. And that this change is in anticipation of that move.
Falk is referring to the fact that unvaccinated Canadians are still not allowed to enter the United States. However, President Biden has indicated that on May 11th, he will lift the public health emergency for COVID-19, causing some to believe that this will end the vaccination requirement for tourists visiting the U.S.
"If President Biden can be trusted, on May 11th we will see the Americans lift all COVID restrictions on the border as well," he says. "So that's going to be another huge win for residents in the southeast."