Border crossing hours have been extended, beginning today, for ports of entry at Piney, South Junction and Tolstoi.

Canada's Minister of Public Safety, Marc Mendicino announced Monday morning that starting Friday, March 31st, hours will be extended at 39 ports of entry across Canada, returning to pre-pandemic operational hours of service. 

Thirteen of those 39 land ports of entry are in Manitoba, including ones in Piney, South Junction and Tolstoi. 

Since July 2020, the hours of operation at Piney had been 9 am to 5 pm, at South Junction were 8 am to 8 pm and at Tolstoi were 8 am to 6 pm.

Starting today, the new hours of operation at Piney are 9 am to 10 pm, at South Junction are 8 am to midnight and at Tolstoi are 8 am to 10 pm.

Meanwhile, the updated hours for the Pinecreek Border Airport at Piney are 9 am to 10 pm.

Wayne Anderson is Reeve for the Rural Municipality of Piney. He says this news by the Public Safety Minister on Monday was completely unexpected. 

"It came right out of the blue," says Anderson. "We've been pushing for this for several years now."

Anderson adds they are thrilled.

"I'm ecstatic," he says. "This is great news for us."

Anderson explains that a lot of his residents have dual citizenship, having been born in the hospital in Roseau, Minnesota. Many of these individuals live in Canada but work in the United States. For some, whose shift might end after a smaller port of entry has already closed, they are being forced to drive all the way around Sprague in order to get back into Canada. Anderson says that is adding an hour to the commute of some of his residents. 

Not only is it for work, but he adds some residents are playing hockey south of the border or visiting relatives and they too are often forced to drive through the 24-hour port of entry at Sprague if their game or gathering runs later into the evening. 

Anderson admits that residents in his municipality feared that the temporary shortened hours would eventually become permanent. He says he is thankful that hours have returned to normal and is hopeful that they stay that way for many years to come. 

Meanwhile, Anderson says he is also hopeful that this announcement is a precursor to the U.S. deciding to allow unvaccinated Canadians into their country.