Government decision another blow to Point Roberts

A bank is set close Dec. 11. A marina is minus 450 boats and a usually thriving parcel business has been essentially dormant for seven months. These are tough times in the isolated community of Point Roberts and it can’t catch a break these days.

When Ottawa announced on Friday it was relaxing rules around the COVID-19 quarantine period for isolated Canada-U.S. border communities, Point Roberts wasn’t included. Instead it’s the residents of border towns of Stewart B.C., Hyder, AK., Campobello, N.B. and The Northwest Angle of Minnesota that will benefit for essential grocery shopping and medical appointments.

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“I’m stunned and outraged,” said Point Roberts Chamber of Commerce president Brian Calder. “We support and applaud the other exclaves along the 49th parallel getting that relaxation of the lockdown rules. We think that’s sensible and it recognizes the extreme hardships being thrust upon them the last eight months and it could be another eight. Who knows!

“What about Point Roberts?” We are the only ones left off the list in all of North America. Why has no one from either side of the government been here?”

The Point Roberts Marina has gone from 650 boats down to 200 with Canadian owners getting them delivered to their side of the border.

Banners Bank inside the Market Place grocery store is closing permanently next month, laying off five, full-time employees, and leaving Umpqua Bank as the lone financial institution option on the Point.

With Black Friday and Christmas shopping on the horizon, this would typically be a busy stretch for the community’s six parcel services that rely on Canadian customers using a U.S. address for shipping.

“Some of them have taken on transshipping to Canadian addresses, but basically they are shutdown,” continued Calder. “They are operated by the owners themselves instead of staff and, on average, they have about five employees each. Those people have been laid off, but you can only be on unemployment for so long. Then what happens? The government’s attitude for us is sink and sink. It’s not sink or swim.”

Recently, Calder suggested the creation of a punch card day pass system to allow some travel between Canada and the U.S. peninsula.

The border card could apply to both Canadians and Americans entering either way. The card will have five punches per household per month for crossing. Proposed reasons accepted for entry/exit would include for things like food, veterinary and medical appointments, supplies, shopping, property checks, family visits and schooling.

Something needs to happen and happen soon, said Calder.

“About 85 percent of our economy depends on Canadian involvement and it’s painfully evident now,” he added. “It’s literally a ghost town here. I’m going to forget how to drive properly because there is no one around. It’s devastating.”

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