New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs speaks during a press conference held on June 7. Credit: Courtesy of the government of New Brunswick

HOULTON, Maine — New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs voiced encouragement that Mainers who have been fully vaccinated will be able to travel to New Brunswick, without need of quarantine, on Canada Day, July 1.

Despite falling slightly short of its vaccination goals, there are signs that Canada is preparing to reopen. The Toronto Star reported on Monday that the federal and provincial governments of Canada had begun discussing how to ease border restrictions. Bloomberg also reported that Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is preparing to end quarantine restrictions for authorized travelers arriving in Canada.

“We have had this discussion about what’s going to be opening up,” Higgs said. “And I know that across the country different provinces and their bordering states have wanted to see movement there this summer, as we do in relation to the same for our communities.”

New Brunswick’s recently unveiled “Path to Green” program sets the goal for the Canadian province to have enough of its residents vaccinated to allow in vaccinated residents of Maine and neighboring Canadian provinces, without need of quarantine, come July 1. Non-vaccinated Maine residents would have to quarantine for 5-7 days upon arrival.

But in order to allow Maine residents in, the U.S. and Canadian federal governments must approve the reopening. While there has been strong speculation that current border restrictions will end on June 22, neither side has made any official declaration that the closure, which has been renewed every month since March 2020, will finally come to an end.

If the travel ban is once again renewed on or before June 21, Maine residents may have to wait until closer to August before they can enter Canada. But Higgs said he was still confident in a July 1 opening of New Brunswick.

“I’m optimistic, but it is a federal decision,” Higgs said during a press conference held on Monday, June 7. “But [if] we get in the position that we are targeting, then we will have a comfort level to look at those border communities in Maine.”

The province has had to delay the first phase of its reopening plan, which was scheduled for Monday, because it was slightly below its vaccination target of 75 percent of residents 12 and older having received at least one dose. This phase calls for quarantine-free travel to New Brunswick from the provinces of Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland and Labrador.

The second stage, which is when Maine residents would be allowed in, calls for having 75 percent with one dose and 20 percent of the population ages 65 and older having received a second dose.