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Coun. Shoemaker walks back border comments

He now says the border should be re-opened only when it's safe to do so

One week after arguing the federal government should look at re-opening border crossings with low COVID-19 infection rates, Ward 3 Coun. Matthew Shoemaker has issued a statement clarifying his remarks. 

"I don’t want to re-open the border as I don’t believe doing so is safe," Shoemaker said in a written statement issued early Monday,

A SooToday article published Sunday night quoted this comment from Shoemaker about a regional approach to re-opening some border crossings before others: "I would say it probably wouldn't work in other border cities, but I do think it is something the federal government should look at – opening border areas that [have] very low infection rates like our neighbouring community of Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan."

"I know that they miss us," Shoemaker said at last week's City Council meeting. "I think that given their circumstances – which are not akin to the circumstances elsewhere in the U.S. and even elsewhere in Michigan – a regional approach makes sense."

No one on City Council offered support for Shoemaker's position.

Mayor Christian Provenzano and Ward 5 Coun. Corey Gardi both expressed disagreement.

"Coun. Shoemaker has a lot of great ideas. That was not one of them, in my estimation," Gardi said.

If he was misunderstood, Shoemaker made no attempt at last week's council meeting to explain himself.  

Publication of his remarks Sunday night on SooToday resulted in a flurry of social-media postings, mostly strongly opposed to re-opening the border at this time.

On Monday, Shoemaker's clarifying statement read:

Recently, my comments from a June 29, 2020 city council meeting were reported, and it was stated I was 'expected to push for a re-opening of the border at Sault Ste. Marie.' This is simply untrue.

At council, I did speak of the special relationship between Sault Ontario and Sault Michigan. It is a relationship that stretches back to the bawaating gathering place on the rapids, even before an international border existed.

My comments at City Council a week ago were to encourage a regional approach to the border re-opening only when it is safe to do so and if I was unclear in the regard, I take full responsibility for that lack of clarity.

The border should re-open only on the recommendation of health officials in both Canada and the U.S. The pandemic ravaging numerous states in the U.S. means we are not yet at a place where re-opening would be safe for us.

However, hopefully one day they’ll get to a place where the border can be safely re-opened, and when the U.S. gets to that place, a regional approach to the border re-opening should be considered.

Until that time, let’s all do our part up here to keep safe, including washing our hands, staying physically distant, and wearing masks when unable to maintain a physical distance.

At its next meeting on July 13, City Council is expected to discuss whether the federal government should be asked to re-open Sault Ste. Marie's border crossing to U.S. citizens travelling for tourism, recreation, entertainment or other non-essential reasons. 

A video containing full remarks made by Coun. Shoemaker, Mayor Provenzano and others at last week's City Council meeting appears above.