SARNIA, ONT. -- A group of border city mayors is calling on the federal government to keep the Canada-U.S. border closed to non-essential travel until at least next year.

The group met this week by online video conference with Canadas' Public Safety Minister Bill Blair. Sarnia Mayor Mike Bradley, who was part of the meeting, said they drove home the message that extending the closure is the most sensible path to take.

“We really need to have it closed until at least the end of the year and then make an assessment. We need to see what’s happening with COVID in this province with the schools opening and people being in closer quarters, and we also needs to watch what’s happening without American partners across the river.”

You won’t get any arguments from restaurant owner Scott Darvie. Even though his Sarnia, Ont. harbour-side pub, Paddy Flaherty, normally attracts a lot of American visitors, he said he’s content to do without them for now, rather than risk another COVID-related shutdown.

“I’m looking ahead at the winter and the patio’s closed and I only have half capacity inside you know so survivability is always there you know just...If we had to shut down again and just go to takeout again my staff would be unemployed and going backwards to me is not a solution.”

The call to extend the closure comes amid troubling signs, with Ontario cases trending upward.

Even still, Bradley said reopening prematurely could set the province back even further. He said he believes a staggered opening is best, once the time is right.

“Pick the groups and how you’re going to do it. It could be property owners. It could be family reconciliation, but just don’t open it back up again. That would be extremely dangerous, and even the minister admitted that would probably mean if it backfired we’d have to close it again. And that’s the worst thing you can do, give us freedom and then take it away.”

Meanwhile, not everyone wants to keep the border closed. Sarnia resident Mary Serratore could be found outside Sarnia city hall Wednesday with a group demonstrating against mandatory masks.

“The border should be left open. We need to be able to go back and forth. They’re our allies and we have families, people have families over there. We have the boats, people own boats and they were stored over in the states.”

As of now, non-essential cross border travel has been extended until Sept. 21.