Canadian Snowbird Association

The Canadian Snowbird Association (CSA) is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to defending and improving the rights and privileges of travelling Canadians. They have over 100,000 members and we are part of that membership.

The CSA were instrumental in helping full-timers gain access to their sites when the Ontario government abruptly reversed their position on opening campgrounds in April. Initially campgrounds were considered essential businesses and, a week later, the government decided to declare them non-essential.

We were caught in the middle of that nonsense and it left us uncertain as to whether we would be able to find a place for our coach for the season. The CSA lobbied on our behalf and an exemption for snowbirds was put in place.

After discussions with the office of the Ontario Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, the CSA is pleased to announce that an exemption has been formally put in place for snowbirds who reside at seasonal campgrounds. The Ontario list of essential workplaces has recently been amended to include seasonal campgrounds on a limited basis for snowbirds who do not have another residence. In addition, the Minister’s office will be communicating this updated directive to all of the parks and campgrounds in the province.

Our park was not aware of these changes back in April and I notified them about the exemption. As a consequence, 28 couples that full-time were able to return home to our park for the season.

We recently asked the CSA if they are advocating for snowbirds to cross the border into the United States in the fall. The answer in a moment. First, a bit of context.

The 2018 Canada-Florida Impact Study demonstrated the significance of the relationship as Canada is Florida’s most important international economic partner. Over 3.5 million Canadians visit Florida each year and Canadians spend more time in Florida than any other state in the US due, primarily, to Canadian snowbirds. There are at least 500,000 Canadian snowbirds that travel to Florida each winter. The economic impact to Florida is significant.

The report provides the following overview of the importance of Canada to Florida:

To summarize the deep linkages between Canada and the State of Florida:

  • The total trade relationship between Florida Canada totals US$7.3 billion.
  • Florida exports US$3.1 billion worth of services to Canada, annually.
  • Canadian investors have brought almost 500 Canadian companies to Florida, directly employing approximately 43,000 people.
  • 3.5 million Canadian’s visited Florida in 2017, increasing their spending to US$6.5 billion.
  • Tourism generated more than half a billion dollars in tax revenue, more than enough to fund the public safety, transportation and library systems of Florida’s major counties.
  • In 2017, Canadian’s purchased more than US$7.0 billion worth of real estate in Florida, contributing to a Canadian real estate portfolio in Florida totaling US$53 billion.
  • Real estate purchases in 2017 contributed an estimated additional US$67.2 million to county tax bases, with existing properties owned by Canadians generating an estimated US$508 million for county coffers.
  • 18 out of Florida’s 27 Congressional districts export more than a quarter billion dollars’ worth of goods and services to Canada.
  • Overall, trade and investment between Canada and Florida creates over 600,200 jobs in the state.

With the Canada-U.S. border closed to land travel and no plans to reopen, many snowbirds are trying to decide what they will do this winter.

For those of us that travel full-time in our rigs during retirement, the uncertainty is uniquely challenging. The winters in Canada are harsh save for a few regions in southwest British Columbia. And the housing options are limited for short-term rentals.

We raised our concerns with the CSA.

Hi Evan

We are retired Canadian snowbirds living full-time in our motorcoach. We do not have a house. We spend 6 months in Ontario and 6 months in Florida. We have a 6-month contract with our resort in Florida for the winter.

We are not sure what our options are for this year. If we can’t go south we need to decide how and where we will spend the winter. The government appears to have no plan to reopen the border to the United States which is not helpful to snowbirds who have to plan their next steps.

Are you advocating with the government on behalf of snowbirds?

Please let me know if you have any insight.

Richard and Lorraine Cleaver

Evan is the Director of Research and Communications for the CSA.

This was his response:

Hello Richard and Lorraine,

We are advocating on behalf of our members with Canadian and American officials and agencies. With the increase in COVID cases in various U.S. states, the Canadian government is hesitant to open the land border with the U.S. prematurely. It should be noted that Canadian citizens can currently travel to the United States by air. That being said, you would still be subject to quarantine requirements in both the U.S. and Canada. Once we have more information regarding the land border, we will send out an email advisory to all members.

Best regards,

Evan Rachkovsky
Director of Research and Communications
Canadian Snowbird Association

We responded to Evan by saying that we know we can fly. However, our coach cannot fly.

And his response:

Public health officials in Canada are examining the land border closure each and every day. Of course, the recent spike in cases stateside has not helped. We are pressing officials on this issue. As soon as we have more information, we will send it to members.

Will the CSA have much luck? Are U.S. lawmakers pressing Canadian officials to reopen? Is the latest tariff on Canadian aluminum due, in part, to the Canadian government refusing to reopen the border? Is reopening the border somehow tied to the U.S. election? Is the fear of COVID-19 so significant that we cannot effectively implement a system that requires a 14-day mandatory quarantine for all travellers?

I have no idea.

I do know that public opinion in Canada is massively against the border reopening.

Is it possible that the government will make an exemption for snowbirds to cross?

Perhaps. Although we know of many snowbirds that are simply taking a pass this winter. The economic impact on Florida will be significant but many snowbirds are aghast at the COVID-19 numbers in the U.S. and in Florida and fearful for their health.

Until those COVID-19 numbers come down, I don’t see much hope for a border crossing in the near future.

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