'A ghost town': Niagara Falls mayor wants plan to reopen tourism
TORONTO -- A typically bustling street in Clifton Hill, Niagara Falls, is empty, with attractions boarded up and rides sitting idle.
"(It's) a ghost town," said Roberta Muir. "I've lived here my whole life and there's always lots and lots of people here, but now it's like a ghost town.
About 40,000 people work in the hospitality industry in Clifton Hill. One of them is Melissa Manojlovic,who has been out of work for a year.
"It's been long enough and I feel like places need to start reopening," she said.
Ontario's stay-at-home order is set to expire next week, as is the border closure to non-essential travel, but there has been speculation that both will be extended.
"That's why we really need a plan, a plan on how and when we're going to reopen." said Niagara Falls Mayor Jim Diodati.
Diodati says that 50 percent of the tourism revenue Niagara Falls generates comes from cross-border tourism, and he is calling on the federal government to lay out a program for reopening cross-border travel.
"The problem right now, we're just kicking the can down the road," he said. "We don't know to where, we don't know to when, we just keep kicking it but we don't have any kind of benchmarks. Give us those benchmarks."
He says with vaccinations increasing every day, and Niagara Falls entering what should be their busy season, it's time to plan for post pandemic.
He says it might be time to consider some exceptions, as essential trade has already returned to pre-pandemic levels,
"A hundred thousand people cross the border every week," he said. "So we're saying maybe we need to expand that essential list, maybe people that have been fully vaccinated."
And with signs that life is returning to normal in the United States, he says a vaccine passport may be a necessary bridge to helping a slumping economy.
"If you only have to carry an extra piece of paper to show that you've been vaccinated, I don't think it's a big deal."
The Public Health Agency of Canada said in a statament that, "any decision to ease or modify border measures in Canada will be based on scientific evidence, and an assessment of domestic and international public health measures."
They did not mention a timeline for when a decision or plan could come.