Monday, May 12, 2008

Prentice tells U.S. group the border is a 'two headed monster'

Prentice tells U.S. group the border is a 'two headed monster' (US-Prentice)
(The Canadian Press)

Mounting delays at the Canada-U.S. border have created a ``two-headed monster''' that's not properly serving security or prosperity, Industry Minister Jim Prentice told top business leaders Wednesday.

It's time for significant progress on practical measures to cut costs and reduce barriers to trade and travel, said Prentice, who spoke to the Council of the Americas before President George W. Bush took the podium.

``Not only do we hamper the legitimate trade and travel that provide the foundation for North America's prosperity but we are also clearly misallocating resources,'' Prentice told the crowd gathered in a State Department ballroom.

``The dollars, hours and resources spent investigating legitimate travel and trade are dollars, hours and resources that would be better spent targeting the areas of highest risk.''

Businesses in both countries are bearing the burden of longer delays, higher inspection rates, additional fees and more layers of security, he said.
Canada's complaints about the border have grown louder since last summer, when delays were hitting up to three hours at some crossings _ the longest since the 2001 terrorist attacks.

Putting off new U.S. passport rules for land and sea travellers until June 2009 was considered a good step but there are still broad concerns.

U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi recently endorsed a study this summer on border tieups so Congress can be ready with a plan for the next administration.

``Anything that happens on the U.S. side of the border to address those issues is something we certainly welcome,'' Prentice said before his speech.

``A new administration always affords opportunities to examine the way forward. That's very much our focus in dealing with this.''

``We're interested in our competitiveness as North Americans.''

In his address, Prentice highlighted the need for investing in critical infrastructure, particularly a replacement for the Ambassador Bridge that joins Windsor, Ont., to Detroit and carries about 40 per cent of the commerce.
Last week, Canada announced construction on a $1.6-billion road would start next year to link a major highway with a new bridge that's supposed to be operational in 2013.

Prentice also told the group Canada will do more to make the Alberta oilsands environmentally friendly and called for cross-border collaboration on technology and scientific research.

Canada is facing increased criticism from U.S. groups that want the project slowed down and cleaned up.

Several groups sent a letter Wednesday to the Senate armed services committee, asking it not to repeal a measure that would restrict the U.S. government from buying oil from the oilsands.

A U.S. major energy bill passed last year classifies the resource as ``alternative'' fuel that produces more greenhouse gas emissions over the life of a project than other sources.

Canada has been working to have the restriction lifted and there are measures to do that before both levels of Congress. As well, a U.S. inter-agency group is expected to change the classification in the coming months.

The project had a lot of bad publicity in April when hundreds of ducks died after landing in an oilsands tailings pond, something Prentice raised in his speech.

``I'm an avid fly fisherman. I would call myself a conservationist,'' he said.

``And I share the concern of the people who are deeply disturbed by the images that have come out of northern Alberta. What happned was unacceptable.''

``Those responsible will face full scrutiny under Canadian law.''

The Council of the Americas is committed to free trade and democracy in the Western Hemisphere.

Other speakers at the one-day annual conference included U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

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