British Columbia

Premier says timing on reopening the border with Washington state will largely be B.C.'s decision

John Horgan hasn’t said when the Canada-U.S. border will reopen between B.C. and Washington state, but regional planning around it is more important than a federal edict.

John Horgan says province following its own timeline about how and when to allow crossings

British Columbia Premier John Horgan, left, shakes hands with Washington Gov. Jay Inslee following a joint news conference Thursday, Feb. 7, 2019, in Seattle. (Elaine Thompson/The Associated Press)

John Horgan hasn't said when the Canada-U.S. border will reopen between B.C. and Washington state, but regional planning around it is more important than a federal edict.

"We'll be making the best decisions in the interests of British Columbia, supported by the federal government," the premier told Matt Galloway, the host of CBC's The Current on Friday.

New modelling by health officials in B.C. shows that infections of coronavirus, which cause the respiratory illness COVID-19, have slowed to the point where it may be possible to lift some restrictions. That could mean the resumption of elective surgeries, economic activities and even possibly having students back at school.

On March 18, both Canada and the U.S. closed its shared border to non-essential travel. At the time, U.S. President Donald Trump said the measure could be in place for a month.

On Thursday, when asked about the border reopening, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said it would not happen, "anytime soon."

On Friday, Trudeau also said that each region in Canada is facing different challenges from the coronavirus, which could mean some provinces may be ready to have their border opened before others.

B.C., for example, has had far fewer cases and hospitalizations than in Ontario and Quebec, though any decisions on  reopening the border with the U.S. would come from collaboration and be based on science.

'It will not be ... the snapping of fingers'

Horgan said he is willing to work with Ottawa under the same principles and participated in a call with the prime minister and other premiers on Thursday night.

Horgan commended the leaders on their co-operation over the pandemic despite regional differences and spoke to the CBC's Galloway about the strong relationship between B.C., Washington State, Oregon and California.

He said that Washington state Gov. Jay Inslee has been doing a "spectacular job" at managing the pandemic in his state and that the two are working together with other region leaders to devise a "seamless reintegration of activities" in the weeks to come, such as cross-border travel.

Horgan warned that it will not be all at once and not at the singular direction of Ottawa.

"It will not be ... the snapping of fingers and I think it will take guidance from Gov. Inslee rather than the federal government on these issues," he said.

Horgan did not say when he thought the border could reopen. On Thursday, B.C. extended its state of emergency for another two weeks until April 28.

The declaration gives the province the ability to restrict travel and set prices for essential goods like medical supplies and food.

Ten days ago, B.C. began requiring every traveller returning to the province from abroad to present a formal isolation plan before they are allowed into the province.

With files from The Current