Open Canada-U.S. border a 'huge relief,' says WEEDC president

Monday, March 16, 2020

CBC Windsor

25% to 30% of Canada-U.S. surface trade crosses between Windsor, Detroit daily, says WEEDC's Stephen MacKenzie

The president and CEO of the WindsorEssex Economic Development Corporation (WEEDC) says it's a "huge relief" the border between Canada and the U.S. is still open, even if it's largely closed to most non-Canadians. 

Citing upwards of $500 million in trade conducted daily thanks to the border between Windsor and Detroit, WEEDC president and CEO Stephen MacKenzie said stricter border closures would have had a hugely negative impact on the local economy.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced on Monday that Canada is barring entry to all travellers who aren't Canadian citizens, permanent residents or Americans — with certain exceptions made for essential workers — like air crews and truck drivers — as well as diplomats or immediate family members of citizens. 

Trudeau was clear that border restrictions won't apply to trade and commerce.

"We're talking about an integrated supply chain network for manufacturing, for the distribution of our agricultural and agrifood workers," MacKenzie said, explaining that 25 per cent to 30 per cent of Canada-U.S. surface trade crosses through Windsor and Detroit daily. "If that was closed, it would have been disastrous."

Bill Anderson, director of the Cross-Border Institute at the University of Windsor, explained that Ontario's manufacturing sector is "well-integrated" into the U.S. manufacturing system, adding that "a very high proportion of the components that go into manufactured goods that are produced in Ontario and elsewhere in Canada are coming from the United States."

"Essentially, that means that whole industrial complex can't function really on either side of the border," Anderson said. "You'd have the same problem on the U.S. side of the border — maybe to somewhat lesser extent, but you'd have closures taking place."

Despite the closures, MacKenzie said he was confident that exceptions border-crossing exceptions would have been made for the roughly 1,500 to 2,000 health care workers living in Windsor, but who travel to Detroit for work. 

WEEDC is currently in the process of coordinating its response, MacKenzie said, and the organization will hold a conference call on Wednesday to get its message out to local businesses. "It's really to inform them on remedies," he said. "We certainly are aware of the impacts, but now we have to start looking at what remedies can we assist our companies to access."

In addition to coordinating with economic partners in Windsor-Essex, WEEDC is also working with the Consulate General's Office in Detroit. 

There are currently no confirmed COVID-19 cases in Windsor-Essex. 

Michigan currently has 54 confirmed cases.