Three Premiers Take Passport Concerns To Washington
Three Canadian premiers will travel to Washington, D.C., next week to raise concerns with American leaders about the U.S. Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI) disrupting Canada-U.S. trade and tourism and the daily lives of Canadian and American citizens.
While in Washington, Feb. 25 to 28, premiers Dalton McGuinty of Ontario, Gary Doer of Manitoba and Shawn Graham of New Brunswick will meet with governors attending the National Governors' Association (NGA) Winter Meeting to discuss the WHTI's impact on jobs and the economy of their states. The mission is supported by Premier Jean Charest of Quebec, who is unable to attend due to the provincial election in his province.
The premiers will request the NGA join them in urging the U.S. administration to consider and test high-security alternatives to a passport for land and water crossings like an enhanced driver's licence, and to fully assess the potential impact of the WHTI initiative.
"Canada and America are more than important trading partners -- we're good friends. We want to find a workable solution for families, businesses and governments on both sides of the border that increases security and protects cross-border trade and tourism," said McGuinty.
At an event hosted by Canadian ambassador Michael Wilson, the premiers will also meet with key private sector leaders who are concerned their business interests will be adversely affected by WHTI.
"This mission will demonstrate that premiers -- even though they may represent different parts of Canada and different political parties -- are united in their belief that we should explore more affordable and family-friendly options to see if they could be effective," Doer said. "We need to recognize the value that comes from families crossing the border to play in hockey tournaments, or attend the ballet or a concert. These everyday occurrences create an important sense of community as well as contributing to our economy."
The premiers will meet with key members of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives who are influential in legislating the manner in which WHTI will be implemented. They will also deliver several speeches on this topic at events hosted by concerned private-sector organizations and businesses including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the U.S. Travel Industry Association, and the Canadian/American Business Council.
"I agree that implementing the WHTI to strengthen security and prosperity for our two countries is very important," Graham said. "I'm concerned, however, that the current option does not recognize the number of towns and cities on each side of our border that act as one community with frequent movement across the border in both directions. The potential negative impact this could have on our shared tourism, cultural, sporting and trade activities is significant."
"WHTI, at its heart, has a goal that both governors and premiers support: securing the free flow of goods and people across the border. I'm very concerned, however, that a passport requirement stands to impede legitimate travel while providing very little in terms of actual security," concluded Charest. "I hope that in the face of the many legal, jurisdictional and technological questions still unanswered, that the U.S. federal government will take full advantage of the implementation extension passed by Congress last fall to do WHTI right."