Business sentiment among leaders of American firms that operate in Canada has cratered to the lowest level on record, according to the latest AmCham Canada-Nanos Research U.S. Investment in Canada Index.

The index, which polled 37 senior executives of U.S. businesses operating in Canada from Mar. 8 to Apr. 12, showed sentiment around the current business investment environment plunged amid pandemic restrictions, with only 19 per cent of senior executives describing the environment as positive. That’s down from 49 per cent in 2019.

Though sentiment around the current business environment has plummeted, the executives polled took a broadly rosy view of future prospects for the Canadian economy as vaccination rates rise and restrictions are eased and eventually eliminated, with 65 per cent of respondents saying they expect the Canadian economy to improve in the next six months.

“While U.S. business executives in Canada suggest the Canadian investment environment is weakening, the economy is expected to strengthen as Canada pulls out of the pandemic. Top priorities that U.S. executives have for the Government of Canada are an expedited vaccine rollout and opening up the border,” said Nik Nanos, chief data scientist and founder of Nanos Research, which partnered with AmCham Canada to conduct the poll.

Border restrictions have been a hot-button issue in Canada and the United States as vaccination rates rise and economies, particularly south of the border, open up. Business leaders and lobby groups have been calling for clarity on when the border, which was closed to non-essential land travel in the early days of the pandemic, will once again allow for travel. The current border closure order extends to June 21.