For the past few months, President Joe Biden’s administration has pressured Canada to open its border. Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer went so far as to threaten unilateral action, saying that if Ottawa kept stalling, the U.S. would go ahead and allow vaccinated Canadians entry.
The pressure appears to have worked. Canada will open its border to Americans on Aug. 9 with no commitment on when the U.S. will reciprocate. No quid pro quo.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says he was not dictated to. But to avoid the appearance of being submissive, you’d think he would have insisted on a joint announcement with Washington on a dual opening.
If one side had a right to hold off longer than the other, it was surely the Canadians. The numbers tell that story: In the U.S., the seven-day average of new cases has surged beyond 37,000 a day, doubling the numbers in June. There’s no such spike in Canada, where the population is getting vaccinated at a faster rate.
Then there’s the matter of the holdouts. According to the latest ABC-Washington Post poll, close to 30 per cent of the U.S. population say they won’t get vaccinated – a frightful number. In Canada, only about one in 10 say they won’t get the jab. For anyone wondering which country’s population is showing the most sense, the comparison is a telling one.
Some Americans who are refusing the vaccine have said in focus groups that they’re prepared to use fake vaccination identity cards to get around any roadblocks. Getting into Canada could be one of them.
The U.S. will likely open its border before long, but when it does, it shouldn’t be surprised if traffic from the north is significantly reduced from normal years. Given what Canadians have witnessed south of the border, why would they want to spend much time there?
When Canadians look south, they have seen not only the rise in COVID-19 and vaccine refusal, but also in mass shootings, gun sales, racial tensions, social disorder and political violence.
According to FBI data, there was about a 25 per cent increase in homicides in 2020 over 2019 – the highest increase since tracking began 60 years ago. A staggering 23 million guns were purchased by Americans in 2020 compared to 13.9 million in 2019.
In terms of new COVID-19 cases, Florida – the most favoured U.S. destination for Canadians – leads all other states. Canadians can recall when Governor Ron DeSantis, a rising star in the Republican firmament, boasted about how his Sunshine State had done so well in fighting the pandemic without having followed the progressives’ prescription of heavy lockdowns. Mr. DeSantis should be eating crow now. But his standing may not be badly affected among Republicans – they admire him, as they do Donald Trump, for turning up his nose at science and the woke establishment.
Unlike in Canada, the pandemic in the U.S. has become incredibly politicized. “Canada is doing better, not because we are trying any less than they are trying,” White House chief medical advisor Anthony Fauci said this week. “It’s because in Canada you don’t have that divisiveness of people not wanting to get vaccinated, in many respects, on the basis of ideology and political persuasion.”
In the ABC-WaPo poll, a whopping 47 per cent of Republicans said they likely or definitely wouldn’t get vaccinated versus just 6 per cent of Democrats.
Vaccine-hesitant Canadians are primarily conservatives as well, but the numbers are so much smaller. In Canada, there isn’t a vast, mainstream disinformation network stoking anti-virus sentiment as there is with Fox News and its affiliates south of the border.
Mr. Biden’s efforts at putting his country back on a calm, rational and civil trajectory have seen some progress. But he has made little headway in bridging the scorpions-in-a-bottle divide between the two political solitudes.
The hard right and the extreme right’s grip on the Republican Party has never been as commanding as it is now. There is little or no hope for compromise – not on who won the election or on the racial divide or the climate crisis or even what constitutes truth. On the advisability of vaccines, they’re turning America in a retrograde direction.
The enthusiasm of Canadians that might normally come with the reopening of the border with our great neighbour is therefore tempered. Many will be in no hurry to cross it.
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