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New Brunswick stakeholders welcome border changes

When Canada lifts the requirement for a pre-arrival COVID-19 test at the border, there’s hope New Brunswick businesses will see a lot more American licence plates in their parking lots.

This is especially true at shops in the border town of St. Stephen, like High Tides Music, where patrons from across the St. Croix river in Calais, Maine used to be part of the regular clientele.

“They don’t have a music store over there,” says Greg Jackson, owner of High Tides, “so I’d have people coming in to get guitar strings, picks or go through our vinyl.”

Jackson says when the border locked down due to the pandemic, those patrons in Calais were left to order online or drive to Bangor, Maine for the same items – a four-hour round trip.

Unless, that is, they felt so desperate they would get a COVID test to cross into Canada to do some shopping.

Before the pandemic, residents say Calais and St. Stephen were one community – with hardly a second thought given to the international border between them.

“When I was a kid I’d skateboard over and then skateboard back,” says Jackson.

He says Mainers only made up about 10 per cent of his regular business, but border restrictions have made securing stock more difficult as well.

“I used to buy a lot of my collections from the states,” says Jackson. “Get them shipped to my mailbox in Calais, then I’d go pick up my collections and bring them across.

“Ninety per cent of my vinyl was stocked that way.”

He, and most everyone else in town, hopes those crossings become a lot easier on April 1 when people who are fully vaccinated will no longer require a test to enter or return to Canada.

The tourism industry New Brunswickwide expects an uptick of American visitors as well.

“We’re looking forward to greeting our U.S. visitors again,” says New Brunswick Tourism Industry Association President and CEO Carol Alderdice.

Alderdice says many businesses bank on travelers from the United States – and hopes to see further COVID-19 protections eased as the weather warms up.

Protections like the ArriveCan app – which requires all entering/reentering Canada to upload proof of vaccination against COVID-19.

“We just keep our fingers crossed that we continue to move forward and learn to live with COVID,” Alderdice says.

New Brunswick’s government says it continues to promote travel into the province south of the border.

“We never cease to show visitors what our beautiful province has to offer,” Tourism, Heritage and Culture Minister Tammy Scott says in a statement sent to Global News.

She says another change here at home: the so-called “staycation rebate” won’t be returning.

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