Point Roberts' residents and business owners are hopeful the New Year will bring a resolution to its plummeting economy.
In an attempt to address the unique issues brought on by COVID-19 and the resulting US-Canadian border closure for non-essential travel that is devastating Point Roberts, the town is making a final plea to politicians on both sides of the border to meet to discuss viable solutions.
“Our unique geographic location, coupled with border closures brought on by COVID-19, is a multifaceted problem, affecting the health and safety of our residents, their properties, and our economy,” stated Brian Calder, president of the Point Roberts Chamber of Commerce. “Our residents are presently confined to Point Roberts - unable to travel anywhere without completing 14-day self-isolation requirements on both sides of the border, which is just not possible.
“They cannot travel to the rest of Washington State where, before the border closures, they were able to help their families and access services not offered in Point Roberts. Similarly, Canadian property owners who have invested millions of dollars in real estate, cannot access their properties here. This has placed undue emotional and financial stress on everyone. It’s ludicrous that Americans are permitted to drive 1,400 miles through Canada to Alaska, but Point Roberts' residents cannot make a 20-minute drive through Canada to access the rest of Washington State.”
With 90 percent of its economic activity supplied by cross-border shoppers and 75 percent of the real estate property owned by Canadians, Calder says Point Roberts cannot survive much longer without political intervention and real solutions.
“The dilemma we have is that our geographic isolation from the US has tied the success of our economy to Canada. Many of our local businesses cater to Canadian needs, but the border closures have now presented a critical crossroad," he said. "The COVID-19 pandemic has not only made all our work to rebuild our economy over the past few years obsolete – it has caused an immediate and severe economic decline.
"Simply put, we have become a ghost town and we need a miracle – fast!”
While residents of Point Roberts realize that their Canadian neighbours will have valid concerns with re-opening the border due to the high number of COVID-19 cases in the US, they are asking politicians to consider safe, good-neighbour solutions that have been afforded to other exclaves during the pandemic. Several options have been developed and include:
* rapid testing at the border to ensure volunteer firefighters living in Canada are able to continue to provide firefighting services in Point Roberts, while Canadians owning property in Point Roberts can visit and maintain their properties.
* vehicle passes that will allow residents to travel through Canada between Point Roberts and the Peace Arch or Surrey border crossing to the US while prohibiting occupants from getting out of their vehicles in Canada.
“I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge and expresses our sincere appreciation and gratitude for the considerable contribution by Canadian volunteer firefighters and their ongoing commitment to providing firefighting services to Point Roberts,” said Calder. “We must ensure that they continue to be given uninterrupted and priority access to provide this essential service.”
Calder added the Point Roberts' business community is even willing to pay for rapid testing at the border.
“We have reached a crisis point and will do everything within our power to address safety concerns and help pave the way for a more secure and economically-viable community for our residents and businesses,” he said. “We have come up with many other viable solutions, but we cannot go any further. It’s up to the political leaders to realize the urgency of our situation and develop specific goals and strategies if Point Roberts is to be saved. We are only asking to be treated with the same fairness and decency as other communities.”