Operation hours at a trio of southwestern Saskatchewan border crossings were significantly cut back during the pandemic, and local residents are feeling the impact.
The hours were shortened at the ports of Climax, Monchy, and Willow Creek to 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday.
One of the bigger voices leading the charge for change in operating hours is Shaunavon Mayor Kyle Bennett.
The first-term mayor said the town is seeking help from surrounding cities and communities to rally for extended hours by writing letters to the government.
“We just want to rally the troops,” he said. “We need to write some letters to our MP and our local government, and get everybody involved and let them know we need these border crossings open."
The City of Swift Current joined in with a letter to the federal government, to which they received a response that can be read below the article.
The current limitation affects southwestern Saskatchewan in many ways, especially on economic and tourism levels.
“It makes it hard if you’re trying to travel or do business,” Bennett said. “It’s pretty tough to get back and forth within those eight hours.”
Bennett said he expects Saskatchewan tourism to go south due to folks being uncertain about the hours or not be able to get through on a weekend, leading them to enter Canada elsewhere.
“They’re not going through Climax, or Val Marie, or Shaunavon; they’re bypassing the region altogether,” he said. “It affects our whole region quite substantially," he said.
Before the pandemic, the border was open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. every day of the week.
According to Bennett, there was a time when the region was working towards a 24-hour crossing, and since COVID-19 things have only gone backward.
The first step is getting to twelve-hour days again, and then pushing for even longer operations after that.
“Sometimes the squeaky wheel gets the grease,” Bennett said. “We need to be the squeaky wheel down here and just let them know that we want our border crossings open for business.”
He expressed hope that writing letters and requesting meetings will be effective in having the voices of the southwest heard.
Justin Trudeau's written response to Swift Current Mayor Al Bridal:
Dear Mayor Al Bridal:
Thank you for writing to me and sharing your concerns about the operational days and hours of the Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA) for the Ports of Climax and Monchy.
Our government understands the importance of protecting the flow of goods and services to benefit Canadian businesses and consumers. We also acknowledge the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on cities and towns close to the Canada-United States border.
Our response to this pandemic includes necessary measures to protect the health and safety of Canadians while keeping our economy going. As a federal government, we will keep doing everything we can to support Canadians and keep them safe.
I am glad to see that you have also written to my colleague, the Minister of Public Safety, the Honourable March Mendicino. By way of copy, I am asking that he give your correspondence all due consideration.
Please accept my best regards,