OPINION: For months PM said border was restricted to essential travel. It wasn’t. Now what?

Since the pandemic start, PM Trudeau has been shading the truth, saying the border was restricted to essential travel – it wasn’t. Amid scandal and new strains, by Monday the PM now needs to show Canadians his border control is bullet-proof.

Tom Parkin, CNC Opinion

Before Monday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau must decide whether to continue telling Canadians he has closed Canada’s border to non-essential travel, a story almost all Canadians will now know was untrue.

Because if it was true, a bunch of vacationing cabinet ministers and elected officials would still have their jobs.

But since mid-summer, on about the eleventh day of each month, the prime minister has announced a month-long extension to border controls. Every time he assured Canadians that our border was restricted to essential travel.

In July, Trudeau tweeted that “non-essential travel between Canada and the U.S. remains restricted.” In October, the prime minister said “non-essential travel remains restricted.” His press officer wrote that the Canada-U.S. border remains “closed to non-essential travel.”

Sure, Canadians trying to travel by car might be turned back at the border. But for those with airline tickets to a vacation in Hawaii, California, Greece or St. Barts, Canadian Border Services Agency officers aren’t restricting anyone from going anywhere.

Somewhere, the CBSA has a definition of essential travel. But they’re not enforcing it for air travelers.

Now that we can all see his words were untrue, the prime minister faces an awkward problem. January 11 is Monday, the day he once again should announce an extension to border controls under COVID-19.

The prime minister can drop he pretense about travel being restricted to non-essential and now try to convince non-travelling Canadians that new measures will both allow non-essential trips and protect us from travellers spreading the virus around. That seems to be the plan. And if it is, he'll be hoping no one will ask too much why these measures weren't in place long ago and why he fibbed about border closure for so many months.

Alternatively, he could do what he said he's been doing -- and actually direct CBSA officers to restrict border-crossing, whether by land or air, to essential travel only. A leger poll this week reported that 87 per cent of Canadians want the border closed until COVID-19 numbers come down.

A central problem we've faced during this pandemic is that politicians' pleas for "personal responsibility" have failed as a policy. While most Canadians are responsible, staying home and following the rules to try to bring this pandemic to a close, "personal responsibility" means those who are irresponsible are allowed spread the disease and extend this health and economic crisis.

Clearly, from the response to sun-seeking politicians, responsible Canadians making the sacrifices are getting pretty damn angry at paying for the irresponsibility of others.

We live in a society. And if we don’t want more members of our society to get sick, die, lose their jobs and lose their businesses, we need laws, not personal responsibility pleas and political shading.

We don’t leave it to personal responsibility whether to drive drunk or not. Or steal or not. Or pay taxes or not. Or perform surgery or not. We don’t get to choose our own personal laws and act as our own personal judges. That's a libertarian fantasy that only works in fiction novels.

On air travel, our prime minister has been exposed. He now needs to show a bullet-proof plan to prevent cases from coming across the boarder. It's even more important with new more virulent virus strains. Releasing people from airports under a voluntary isolation is just more of the same.

For months the prime minister has been trying to have it both ways. His communications assured the responsible, but his policy indulged the irresponsible. That ruse is over. Especially with new viral strains posing new threats, the prime minister needs to decide if he stands with responsible Canadians or continue to indulge those who put us all at risk.

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