Manufacturing AUTOMATION

COVID-19 Updates News
Survey: Border closures resulting in major losses, ‘immediate solution’ needed


The border closures between Canada and the United States due to COVID-19 continue to negatively impact the supply chain that serves Canada’s manufacturing industry — and the federal government’s Jul. 5 lifting of certain crossing restrictions isn’t substantial enough, say industry associations.

The Canadian Tooling & Machining Association (CTMA), in partnership with the Canadian Association of Moldmakers, (CAMM), Automate Canada and the Niagara Industrial Association (NIA), recently conducted a survey of 91 respondents to follow up about the common border crossing issues in Southern Ontario first highlighted in a January 2021 poll of 39 respondents.

Survey respondents include moldmaking and tool and die companies, automation and robotic equipment manufacturers, and controls design, tooling and engineering companies, among others.

Financial impacts

In December 2020, an average of 70 per cent of employers reported quarantine orders for employees and visitors and denial of entry by visitors into Canada. In May 2021, this increased to 87 per cent. Sixty-nine per cent have experienced loss of contracts due to border issues.

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“It’s clear from the increased participation in the survey that the issues at the border have left manufacturers with high risk for current contracts and potentially irreversible damage to customer relationships,” says Jeanine Lassaline-Berglund, president of CAMM and Automate Canada, in a statement.

The financial impact varies among respondents, and not all commented on finances due to confidentiality. The majority noted there were losses from 2021 because of the interruption of COVID-19-related protocols.

Of those who commented, 64.9 per cent stated a combined actual financial impact of $100,000 to $10,000,000 for 2020, and 65.4 per cent revealed an estimated financial impact of $100,000 to more than $5,000,000 for 2021.

One respondent indicated that their company had stopped doing cross-border work altogether, resulting in a 30 per cent drop in orders.

Jul. 5 change ‘just a first step’

Border restrictions barring travel between Canada and the U.S. have been in place since Mar. 21, 2020 to stop the spread of COVID-19, and now, only some “essential workers” are able to cross without a mandatory two-week quarantine. What counts as “essential” has been the subject of petitions by the CTMA, Automate Canada, CAMM and NIA.

Currently, workers employed by suppliers in the manufacturing value chain must quarantine for two weeks upon entry back into Canada. On Jul. 5, the federal government will allow fully vaccinated Canadians to travel without quarantining upon return. Unvaccinated Canadians will be subject to the same quarantine rules currently in effect.

“The information obtained in this survey sends a clear message to government officials that we need to move forward with some decisive action and find an immediate solution to these issues,” says Robert Cattle, executive director of CTMA.

“The announcement made on June 21 that vaccinated Canadians can now return to Canada without quarantine is just a first step and we must continue to apply pressure to put in place measures for safe travel for both U.S and Canadian citizens between our two countries.”

More specific guidelines needed

“The current restrictions governing travel across the Canadian/U.S. border do not fully acknowledge or consider the growing concerns among manufacturers,” says Sophia De Luca, operations manager of the Niagara Industrial Association.

“These survey results provide further evidence to suggest that such restrictions need to adopt more specific guidelines that recognize circumstances for safe, and timely travel of manufacturers, technicians, or specified service workers across the border for maintenance of ongoing industrial projects.”

The associations recommend government officials provide a clearer definition of “essential workers” to help Canada Border Services Agency personnel better understand the guidelines, provide more detail on documentation requirements and implement rapid testing at ports of entry to reduce quarantine periods for individuals travelling across the border to perform essential services.

“People crossing are being determined essential based on the number of times they cross and not the purpose of crossing which encourages unnecessary crossing and hampers business,” noted one respondent in the survey. “Border officials do not apply the rules consistently.”