Maritimers living near the U.S. adjust to new reality as border is set to close
ST. STEPHEN, N.B. -- For many Canadians and Americans who live near the St. Stephen, N.B. border, crossing over for cheaper gas or grocery items is a routine outing. But that all changed on Wednesday.
Unprecedented restrictions were put in place Wednesday along the border between Canada and the United States, when U.S. President Donald Trump announced that the border between Canada and the United States will be "temporarily" closed to tourists and visitors, "by mutual consent."
“That’s going to be different,” says St. Stephen resident Susan Hogge. “You know you just get in the your car and automatically head over, but now you have to stop and think, we can’t,”
Ottawa and Washington have agreed to stop non-essential travel across the ‘world’s longest undefended border’.
New Brunswick Southwest MP John Williamson says the new restrictions are necessary, despite the impact on the cross-border culture.
“In addition to the economic ties between New Brunswick and the state of Maine, there are blood ties in this community,” says Williamson. “People will live on one side of the border and work on the other, families are split between the border.”
With rumours of a border shutdown having circulated over the past week, people on both sides spent the past 24 hours scrambling to figure things out.
Fire services in Calais, Maine and St. Stephen, N.B. have a mutual aid agreement, allowing them to respond to fires on both sides of the border.
“I can assure that emergency vehicles are not going to be impacted,” says Chief Sean Morton of the St. Stephen Fire Department.
However, Chief Morton says firefighters will no longer be able to respond to a cross-border fire in their personal vehicles.
“If we’re going to be making a run to Calais, the firefighters are going to have to come to the station, get on an engine, and go,” explains Morton.
Transport trucks will continue to roll, as commercial traffic won’t be affected.
But like everywhere else, economy activity across the border is slowing down due to COVID-19 concerns.
“It’s just a different thing that I’ve never witnessed,” says St. Stephen Mayor Allan MacEachern. “There’s just no movement, there’s no one supporting our economy right now.”
Within an hour of the border closing announcement, there was heavy one-way traffic at St. Stephen crossing, with virtually no Canadians going South into Maine, but a line-up of Canadians returning home.
A new reality for those living along the border, with no indication of when, if ever, cross-border travel may open back up to normal.