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As seen on CBC-TV: Snapshots of cross-border life before COVID-19

A look back at a few examples of the cross-border stories that CBC has covered when the border operates more regularly.

Canada-U.S. border crossing normally involves an easy back-and-forth that is suspended for the moment

American tourists visiting Toronto share their impressions of Canada. 1:30

At the moment, life in Canada is far from normal.

Due to the COVID-19 crisis, Canadians are facing restrictions in their day-to-day lives that mean they cannot go where they would normally go — including across the border to the United States.

This includes any "non-essential" cross-border jaunts for shopping or travel, or to take a brief day trip to see how the other half of the U.S.-Canada border divide lives.

Normally, cross-border stories are frequently seen in the news and that has been the case on CBC for decades.

Different money, cigarettes up here

In 1991, The National reports on a five-year drop in tourism to Canada. 2:18

Like stories about the Americans who come north to go sightseeing, seen on CBC-TV as early as 1960.

"We've learned more since we've been here this day and a half than we had our entire life," said one man from Dayton, Ohio, when interviewed on CBC's Tabloid that year and asked about his knowledge of Canada prior to making his first trip north.

"Your money values and things like that, we've never even come into contact with anything like that before. And then I mean different prices of things, cigarettes, we never knew they had different cigarettes here like they do."

Another visitor interviewed on Tabloid talked about our "fresh air," an observation a future U.S. president similarly made about Canada decades later.

Lineups are long in Niagara Falls, and not because tourists want to see the sights. 1:57

Not all visitors are so optimistic about what Canada has to offer, though — in some cases objecting to the taxes unfamiliar to them. (At least, that was the case when the GST came into effect, as seen on The National in 1991.)

Deals to be had, too

Non-essential travel won't be happening for a while, as a result of border crossing changes enacted in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis. (Ryan Remiorz/Canadian Press)

Then there's all the shopping Canadians do down south, as well as the deals that draw our American friends and neighbours across the border.

Cheaper cars, lower-priced fur coats — two examples of things Americans have made the drive north to purchase here in the past, depending on the economic circumstances at a given time.

A look at the battle for business in border cities as of the fall of 1990. 2:26

In 1979, there was even a trend where some Americans living close to Canada were making an international trip to fill up their cars with gas, which was in short supply for them back home.

Depending on the dollar, there are always deals to be had for Canadians doing their shopping in the U.S., as well.

Not always great for businesses

But any flow of shoppers to the south tends to upset merchants at home, who don't want to see their business drive elsewhere.

That was the case 30 years ago, when reporter Steve Paikin visited Niagara Falls, Ont., to get a sense of how much of that business was indeed heading south of the border.

"Retailers in the Niagara peninsula say they're losing more than $100 million a year to the competition in New York [state]," he told viewers in a report that aired in October of 1990.

For now, we await a return to what we took for granted — the chance to go where we want, when we want. A time when things go back to normal.