Truck traffic has still been getting through at North Portal

As the COVID-19 crisis leads to ever-increasing restrictions on travel, essential truck traffic is indeed getting through to Saskatchewan. Canada closed its border with the U.S. to all non-essential travel at 11:59 p.m. Friday.

“This decision will be implemented on March 21, 2020, at which time the U.S. and Canada will temporarily restrict all non-essential travel across the U.S.-Canada land border. The measure will be in place for 30 days, at which point it will be reviewed by both parties,” said a federal government press release.

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Allister Denton is a Saskatchewan-based temporary long-haul trucker who drives refer vans from the American Midwest into the Canadian Prairies.

Around noon on Friday, Denton was returning to Canada, crossing at North Portal. Crossing didn’t take a lot of time, although he understands from his dispatch that their other drivers crossing at Coutts/Sweetgrass between Montana and Alberta had faced delays, but they are becoming minor.

For this load, Denton was hauling pork back into Canada.

At the border, he said border guards asked, “Have you been feeling alright? Do you have a temperature, sore throat, cough or any other symptoms over the past week? They asked me the barrage of symptoms – shortness of breath, headaches, stuff like that.”

He replied he was feeling fine, and he was allowed through. His trailer, as usual, was properly sealed.

“It was exactly the same as the last time I came into Canada,” Denton said.

He noted that as a long-haul driver, he is essentially self-isolated all the time. “I’m in my truck, literally 23 hours a day.”

He starts his morning at 5 or 6 a.m. with a run or skipping rope, and then hits the road. “The only time I get out of my truck is to fuel,” he said, or to pick up groceries.

Denton has found that when he delivers a load, there’s no more waiting inside the building. They bring the papers to the truck for him.

Denton lives in Battleford with his wife and daughter, when they’re not touring quite literally as a family circus.

Denton’s primary gig is being Dr. Von Houligan, a magician. His travelling roadshow is Dr. Von Houligan’s Family Extravaganza, which has criss-crossed the Prairies for the last several years, performing under its own big top. If you were watching Telemiracle at midnight, you would have seen him perform.

As such, he’s driving long haul as a temporary gig, between seasons, and he’s happy to have the work.

“Most of my friends are magicians and entertainers. The next two months are wiping them out. Most are paranoid they’ll go bankrupt,” he said.

With the exception of a cancellation for funding reasons, he noted, “I haven’t had any dates cancelled. My season starts mid-May.”

He’s prepared that May and all of June to be wiped out for his season.

“I talked to my wife, and we understand the whole season could be wiped out. We don’t want it to. We’re preparing for the worst, hope for the best,” Denton said.


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