Canadians and Americans alike have been left confused by mismatched announcements from their respective countries that left Canada’s border open to United States residents – but not vice versa.
"It was so bewildering. It was absolutely 180 degrees from what we expected, what we believed, and the conversations that we had had," Simon Resch, owner of Emerson Duty Free, said Monday.
"It's like starting your car and turning it off, and starting your car and turning it off, and stop and go and stop and go."
His business has served as Canada’s oldest duty free store for nearly 40 years, sitting at the border between Emerson and Pembina, N.D., and has lost the vast majority of its business without American clientele.
After the U.S. government announced — despite Canada opening its border to fully vaccinated U.S. citizens for non-essential travel starting Aug. 9 — it would not be doing the same until at least Aug. 21, Resch said his industry is paying the price.
"It absolutely leaves me with the feeling that there really is no organization or co-ordination between Canada and the United States when it comes to the border and international travel," he said.
Resch said Emerson Duty Free will, should it survive post-pandemic, have non-international travel-based elements in place if the border is forced to close in a similar fashion again.
Week-to-week changing orders, along with the ending of several federal support programs, have left him uncertain about the future.
"If we're not ready yet to live in a world with an open border shared with the United States, I don't think then we're ready to phase out support programs," Resch said.
"I think that's very unfair. I think that's very short sighted of the federal government."
On the other side of the border, Fargo Mayor Tim Mahoney said he was "very disappointed" with the U.S. federal government’s decision, calling it a blanket response for the whole country based on high case counts in a few areas.
"What we find with them is (the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) doesn't necessarily take the whole United States into account," he said. "Certain areas go up, all of sudden they get frightened. And then they kind of make rules for everybody the same way."
North Dakota health officials reported 27 new COVID-19 cases out of 424 tests processed Sunday, a test positivity rate of 6.43 per cent. The 14-day average was 2.27 per cent.
Not only has the dip in sale of agricultural products and lumber between Manitoba and North Dakota dealt the state a heavy blow, the summer — a season that typically has Fargo "packed" with Canadian visitors — will be all but over should the border open Aug. 21.
"It may not seem (so) to our federal government, but that's a big deal. We're climate oriented in this community, we do things when we can, our tourist season gets pretty busy," the mayor said.
North Dakota parcel service Mike’s Parcel co-owner Mason Peters said he "couldn’t be more shocked," after hearing Canadians wouldn’t be able to come and retrieve ordered packages at the border next month.
"For a week now, we've just been trying to come to grips with it, trying to get the logic, or the data, or the benchmark or the reasoning behind it. And we're still stumped," he said.
Peters is keeping optimistic for now, but the business is in limbo. He noted that, at the beginning of the pandemic, Mike’s Parcel was still a relatively new business paying off debt, and optimism won’t last forever.
"Can we make it until the border opens? I would turn around and say, I think so, but please tell me when the border is going to open," he said.
Malak Abas is a reporter for the Winnipeg Free Press.