Provincial input still needed before border changes: Hajdu

Health Minister Patty Hajdu says she expects to consult with provincial counterparts on travel restrictions this coming week after an expert panel called for an end to the current three-day quarantine system and amid increasing pressure from both sides of the border.

The health minister said she wants to hear the perspectives of the provinces before making any decisions on easing restrictions.

“As you know, border management has been a hotly contested issue among provinces and territories. And I want to make sure that I understand the perspective of my colleagues before we take the next steps,” Hajdu said in an interview that aired Sunday on Rosemary Barton Live.

The health minister told guest host David Cochrane that while the recent report by the COVID-19 Testing and Screening Expert Advisory Panel was a “very good roadmap,” decisions should wait until consultation could happen, “hopefully next week.”

Prince Edward Island Premier Dennis King also told Cochrane that his province’s primary interest was a “consistent, understandable approach to entry into the country” and any movement in that direction would be welcomed.

“But the importation of COVID-19 to our province remains one of the highest risks,” he said.

P.E.I. Premier Dennis King appears at a briefing last Thursday outlining plans for loosening COVID-19 restrictions in his province. (Kirk Pennell/CBC)

Ad campaign calls for reopening

The border restrictions have been a major issue in Ontario, where the provincial government has placed ads attacking the federal government’s handling of the issue. But border mayors in Ontario have also repeatedly called for a clear plan for reopening, including easing of measures for fully vaccinated travellers.

One American has taken to the airwaves to put pressure on both the Canadian and U.S. governments to lift restrictions.

John Adams, who has a home on Vancouver Island, is running election campaign-style ads in the United States and will soon expand them to Canada.

“My point on all of this is fully vaccinated Americans pose no threat to Canadians,” he told Cochrane in a separate interview on Rosemary Barton Live.

“Let’s quit kicking the can down the road.”

Privacy versus verification

Travel restrictions between the two countries have been in place since March 21, 2020, and are regularly extended on a month-to-month basis. The restrictions are currently set to expire on June 21, if they are not again extended.

Crucial to the conversation around border reopening is the development of a vaccine passport system. Hajdu said on Sunday that conversations were underway around how a vaccine verification system could be reconciled with the privacy requirements for health data.

“We certainly have a head start with the ArriveCan [app], allowing for a digital submission of documentation, for example,” she said.

The health minister also said she would not be attending a meeting of G7 health ministers in Britain. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will be attending a G7 meeting in-person, according to the U.K. government, his first trip outside the country since the beginning of the pandemic.

You can watch full episodes of Rosemary Barton Live on CBC Gem, the CBC’s streaming service.