U.S.-style attack ads aim to pressure Trudeau on reopening border

TORONTO — One concerned citizen is using American-style political attack ads to pressure Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and U.S. President Joe Biden to reopen the border to fully vaccinated Americans.

The ad has already aired in several U.S. border markets, including the Niagara region, Buffalo, Detroit and Washington State, but is set to air in the Toronto and Ottawa markets next week.

“President Biden, Prime Minister Trudeau, my fiancee and I are separated by your closed border,” a woman says in the commercial. “It’s just policy to you, but it’s a prison to us.”

In total, the ad has run 153 times in specific border areas in the U.S. at a cost of US$2,700, primarily funded through a GoFundMe that has raised more than $16,000 as of Thursday evening.

John Adams, the man primarily responsible for the ads, lives in Florida and has a second home on Vancouver Island, which he hasn’t been able to visit since September 2019.

“I decided the government is just kicking the can down the road,” Adams told CTV News. “I’ve done these kinds of things before, I said: ‘I’m going to stop them from kicking the can down the road. I’m going to give them something that they’re going to have to deal with.’”

“I decided I’m going to throw a bobcat in the middle of the sleeping politicians and boom came my ads.”

Adams was primarily focused on helping people who had been denied access to their properties in Canada, but quickly found out about people whose families are separated by the border.

“I hadn’t even zoned in on separated families and loved ones until I started getting calls,” he said. “I actually changed my ad from version one to version two, to include that segment in there.”

Jaslyn Declercq from Ontario donated to the fundraising campaign out of frustration about not being able to see her partner, who lives in Ohio.

“There’s a lot I can deal with, but the hurt on my kids is a breaking point,” she said.

The Canada-U.S. border has been closed since March 2020 and is currently in place until June 21, though it could be extended further.

On Thursday, the White House said the U.S. has not made any decisions on about when or how it would reopen the border, rebuking a report that suggested the border closure would end on June 22.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s office told The Canadian Press on Thursday that 75 per cent of Canadians would have to be vaccinated before restrictions can be lifted.

According to CTVNews.ca’s vaccine tracker, 54 per cent of Canadians have received at least one dose of the vaccine, while 49 per cent of Americans have received one dose.

Trudeau himself told reporters on Thursday that dialogue between Canada and the U.S. continues and both sides want the border reopened.

“Conversations are ongoing constantly with the U.S. administration because there is much eagerness to get back to normal on all sides,” Trudeau said Thursday.

Last week, U.S. Senate Majority Leader and New York Senator Chuck Schumer made a push for Canada to reopen the U.S. border, with a four-point plan that included boosting support for border officers and improving clarity for those who have been impacted closure.

“At the beginning — and in the height — of the pandemic it was understandable for such drastic measures to be taken, we know much more about the virus than we knew in March of last year and are making strong gains against it,” Schumer said in a statement last week. “Since vaccination rates have risen, overall rates are steadily falling, and New York is reopening today, based on the data, it is time to take the first steps towards reopening the northern border to non-essential travel.”

While Americans appear eager to a return to normal life, the same cannot be said for Canadians. A survey from earlier this week showed that 52 per cent of Canadians are somewhat anxious about a return to pre-pandemic life.

With files from The Canadian Press

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