Canada will not reopen the U.S. border until vaccination rates and case counts reach levels that would make doing so safe for Canadians, says Prime Minister Trudeau.
Speaking to CTV’s Your Morning Friday, Trudeau did not rule out waiting until September or later to reopen the border, which has been closed since March 2020.
“We will see what vaccinations look like, we will see what case counts look like. We will listen to experts on when we can start easing restrictions, but the safety of Canadians needs to come first,” he said.
His remarks come in the wake of calls from some U.S. politicians to open the border in time for the start of summer. The border closure has been renewed on a monthly basis, and Trudeau said those renewals would continue.
“Even as Americans are getting lots of vaccines, we’re still seeing around 50,000 new cases a day in the United States,” he said. “Everyone looks forward to starting the travel again and we’re certainly going to keep working closely with the United States as we have since the beginning of the pandemic. But the safety of Canadians is our single most and top priority.”
The Canadian vaccine rollout has been heavily criticized as vaccination numbers lag behind the United States and other countries, despite Canada’s having signed contracts with several vaccine producers. But Trudeau said the effort has gone very much as expected and pushed back against the notion of inconsistent rollout messaging between federal and provincial governments.
“What you call inconsistencies, I call Canada,” he said. “The reality is the nature of the case counts were very different from P.E.I. to Quebec to Saskatchewan to B.C to the territories, and provinces had different approaches because they had different situations on the ground.”
Trudeau said he understood the frustration surrounding the pace of vaccinations, but said shipments of vaccines set to arrive in the coming months means Canada should ultimately be well positioned compared to other countries.
One aspect of the vaccination process that is very much up in the air is the notion of ‘vaccine passports’. Several countries are adopting certificates of vaccination that would allow for cross-border travel and access to more services, and some Canadian provinces have floated doing so as well.
Trudeau said that, while providing proof of vaccinations is well established when travelling internationally, doing the same within Canada would raise ethical issues.
“For domestic use, making a difference between people who are vaccinated or not, recognizing that not everyone is going to be able to get vaccinated for different reasons, brings up questions of equality and fairness that I think we need to be very careful about moving forward,” he said. “But internationally, the idea of vaccine credentials I think that’s something very much worth looking at.”
Trudeau also said the government plans to roll out a federal budget ‘very soon’, but he would not give a specific timeline. The last budget was two years ago in March 2019, and has been delayed most recently as the government assessed the impact of the pandemic.