EDITOR’S NOTE: Latest news. Following a concerted outcry from marine communities across the Great Lakes, the Hon. Marco Mendicino, Federal Minister of Public Security, announced this morning (May 19) via Twitter that “services will resume at more than 300 maritime entry points” and that this will happen “this week”. The closures were announced on May 2n/a, leaving Manitoulin without a port of entry. It is still unclear which ports are reopened. Stay tuned for further updates.
MANITOULIN—“That’s ridiculous! is the common refrain of mayors and boating industry stakeholders in response to Canada Border Services’ announcement that US boaters coming to North Channel ports will have to go to Sault Ste. Marie to register their entry into Canada.
“It’s ridiculous, weird,” said Gore Bay Mayor Dan Osborne. “It doesn’t make any sense at all. This will have an impact not only on us, but on the entire North Shore. We have a lot of businesses that depend on tourism, not just the marina, but also the airport. It could devastate the economy.
“It’s happening everywhere,” said North Channel Marine Tourism Council chairman Stan Ferguson. “Isn’t that ridiculous? The government seems determined to make life interesting for us.
Boating Ontario General Manager Rick Ryzell was even more expressive in his response. “That’s crazy,” he said. “It’s the only thing I can say that’s printable.” Ferguson noted that council member Roy Eaton has been in touch with Algoma-Manitoulin-Kapuskasing MLA Carol Hughes for assistance in his dealings with the federal department.
Boating Ontario is working hard on the issue in its lobbying and Mr. Ryzell notes that two Conservative MPs have already agreed to pressure the government to find a better solution.
“It’s not like it’s a staffing issue,” Ryzell said. “There are not even border agents who usually go to the docks. It’s a simple phone call to the office to register. They tell the officer their passport number, they are 99.9% US citizens and they are approved.
The boating industry is already fighting with the federal government over the imposition of a luxury tax on boats. “We have already held meetings on the issue of the luxury tax that is hammering the industry and we will also be addressing the issue of the Canada Border Service at these meetings,” Mr. Ryzell said.
For its part, Canada’s border services say they are temporarily reducing maritime ports of entry in response to the pandemic.
Ryzell noted that while the whole country is opening up following the lifting of COVID-19 border protocols, there is one exception: maritime traffic.
“Land crossings are open, airports are open, rail, everything is open except water; we are singled out and it just doesn’t make sense,” he said. “It will have a negative impact on tourism and there is no reason for that.”
He noted that for boaters on his way, it’s a two-hour boat ride to the nearest border registration centre. For boaters arriving in Manitoulin and North Channel ports, the closest facility is Sault Ste. Married.
“I’m looking north, you have to go to Sault Ste. Marie to enroll,” Mr. Ryzell said. “There will be a simple reaction from American boaters,” he said. “They just won’t come.”