NIAGARA FALLS N.Y. (WIVB) – Local leaders are sounding the alarm that keeping the border to Canada closed for another month could have a devastating punch on tourism and small businesses.
“It’s time to open the borders up. We’re absolutely killing the economy and our local border town here, by keeping the border shut,” said Niagara Falls Councilmember Ken Tompkins.
The Niagara Falls economy relies on tourism during the summer months. Tompkins says a lot of the money that flows in comes from across the Rainbow Bridge and the Lewiston-Queenston Bridge. However, for months now, that’s been put on pause.
“In our budget we have tourism money, we have parking we have sales tax, all that is going down to zero,” Tompkins said. “Everyday that we’re closed up, every day that we can’t work it’s affecting our budget a little bit more and putting us a little deeper in debt. Niagara Falls was hurting financially before this, this is really putting us over the rocks.”
This week officials from Canada and the U.S agreed to keep the border closed to non-essential travel through July 21st. Tompkins says he understands it’s for people’s health and safety, but closed the border longer will have a ripple effect not just on businesses.
“How many people have cottages and houses on both sides of the border, commute back and forth, have jobs and may live in Canada work in the state and vice versa?” Tompkins said. “This is really affecting a little bit too much and to push it back until the end of July I think they’re going way to the extreme.”
In Fort Erie Canada, Mayor Wayne Redekop says a few tourist attractions across the border begin reopening on Friday. He says it’ll be different without the usual rush of travelers from the USA.
“Our American friends and neighbors are a big part of the community life in Fort Erie and in Niagara, so we’re noticing their absence,” Redekop said.
Fort Erie is bracing for the long-term effects this could have on its economy. Mayor Redekop says they’re going to try to remain hopeful and cross that bridge when they get there.
“Hopefully aside from the negative affects, economically, we’ll be able to take advantage of some of the things we’ve learned and in particular, how important public health facilities and planning is for our societies,” Kedekop said.
Sarah Minkewicz is a reporter who has been part of the News 4 team since 2019. See more of her work here.