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Sunday, July 12, 2009

Fortress America's impact at the Canadian border

Paul Berton, in an editorial in the Winnipeg Sun, writes about the increasing difficulties trade and visitors encounter at our mutual border. Here's an excerpt:

"It is often proudly called the world's longest undefended border, but it's not exactly true. There may be no military presence between Canada and the United States, but the border is increasingly defended by law enforcement and government officials.

"The trend bodes ill for Canada's economy, and is perhaps best symbolized by the rising wall of security and bureaucracy for cross-border tourists.

"As if the recession weren't enough, citizens (with a few exceptions) of both countries must now carry a passport to cross the border.

"Before the new rules came into effect this spring, tourism was already in a tailspin -- spending fell 1.3% in the first three months of this year, the third straight quarterly decline, making it the most prolonged downturn since 9/11.

"In fact, it was as a result of the 9/11 terrorist attacks that both countries started spending millions to beef up border security, causing longer wait times, bigger line-ups, and a growing series of bureaucratic obstacles for visitors to both countries.

"Late last year, the number of trips into Canada from the U.S. plummeted by 5.9% to 2.2 million visitors, the lowest in more than a decade. How much worse will it get now?

"The problem is bad enough for travellers, but it's particularly acute for Canadian businesses that rely on American tourists, because relatively speaking, fewer Americans feel the need for a passport -- 30% compared to 54% of Canadians. "

Read the entire editorial here.

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