The Ambassador Bridge is Canada's busiest border crossingClick image to enlargeCanadian manufacturers are still feeling the pinch of stringent border controls during the COVID-19 response, according to a recent survey, and in some cases the pain is worse than ever.

The Canadian Tooling & Machining Association (CTMA), in partnership with the Canadian Association of Moldmakers, (CAMM), Automate Canada and the Niagara Industrial Association (NIA), in late June 2021 conducted a follow-up survey to measure the effects of border closures within the manufacturing industry.

This updated study compared the results to a previous survey about common border crossing issues that have been experienced by those in the industry.

According to survey respondents, the severity of the issue continues. In December 2020, an average of 70 per cent of employers reported quarantine orders for employees and visitors and denial of entry by visitors into Canada. In May 2021, this increased to 87 per cent. Some 69 per cent have experienced loss of contracts due to border issues.

“It’s clear from the increased participation in the survey that the issues at the border have left manufacturers with high risk for current contracts and potentially irreversible damage to customer relationships,” said Jeanine Lassaline-Berglund, president, CAMM.

The financial impact varies among respondents. The majority noted there were undeniable losses from 2021 because of the interruption of COVID-19-related protocols.

Border crossings considered in the survey include the Ambassador Bridge and Windsor Tunnel (more than 80 of all crossings), Sarnia Bluewater Bridge, Fort Erie Peace Bridge, Lester B Pearson International Airport, Niagara Rainbow Bridge and Cornwall Seaway International Bridge.

“The current restrictions governing travel across the Canadian/U.S. border do not fully acknowledge or consider the growing concerns among manufacturers,” said Sophia De Luca, operations manager at Niagara Industrial Association. “These survey results provide further evidence to suggest that such restrictions need to adopt more specific guidelines that recognize circumstances for safe, and timely travel of manufacturers, technicians, or specified service workers across the border for maintenance of ongoing industrial projects.”

The associations are calling for government officials to provide a clearer definition of "essential workers" to help Canada Border Services Agency personnel better understand the guidelines; provide more detail on documentation requirements and implement rapid testing at ports of entry to reduce quarantine periods for individuals travelling across the border to perform essential services.

“The information obtained in this survey sends a clear message to government officials that we need to move forward with some decisive action and find an immediate solution to these issues,” said Robert Cattle, executive director, CTMA. “The announcement made on June 21 that vaccinated Canadians can now return to Canada without quarantine is just a first step and we must continue to apply pressure to put in place measures for safe travel for both U.S and Canadian citizens between our two countries.”

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