Gimli – May 31, 2006 -- Western Premiers urged the government of Canada to be more aggressive in raising the anticipated negative economic impacts of the WHTI with its US counterparts. For their part, Premiers committed to continue their work with US Governors from border states and elsewhere to help raise the profile of this issue locally and nationally in the United States. They noted that at the urging of border Senators, the US Senate recently passed an amendment to the WHTI that could delay its implementation if passed by conference and signed into law by President Bush.
Western Premiers are very concerned that the WHTI, as currently outlined, will negatively and unnecessarily impact trade, tourism, and the daily lives of citizens in border communities. Western Premiers support a delay in the implementation of the WHTI and urge the United States Government and the Government of Canada to fully explore, in close consultation with states and provinces/territories, options with regard to the implementation of the WHTI, including alternative identity documentation prior to fully implementing the WHTI.
Western Premiers recommend that WHTI-required documents be affordable, accessible, and available through efficient processing means and that the United States Government and the Government of Canada explore the use of alternative documents to satisfy WHTI criteria.
Western Premiers recognize that both Canada and the United States benefit greatly from cross-border tourism and noted that Canadians spend more tourism dollars in the United States than Americans do in Canada. In 2004, residents of Canada made 35.9 million trips to the United States and put $11.7 billion USD into American tourism industry cash registers, $2.1 billion USD more than American visitors spent in Canada. Western Premiers also recognize that many Canadian and U.S. families have forged strong and lasting social relationships through cross-border events, such as sporting tournaments and cross-border cultural exchanges and activities.
On September 1, 2005, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the U.S. Department of State confirmed their intention to implement the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI). This will require all U.S. and Canadian citizens to have a passport or other accepted secure document by January 1, 2008 that establishes the bearer’s identity and nationality to enter or re-enter the United States. This requirement will apply to all air and sea travel to the United States beginning on December 31, 2006, and will be extended to all U.S.-Canada land border crossings after December 31, 2007.
NATIONAL TRANSPORTATION STRATEGY
Western Premiers remain united in their support for the Council of the Federation’s national transportation strategy, L ooking to the Future: A Plan for Investing in Canada’s Transportation System, and agree it is time to take the strategy to the logical next step by establishing with the federal government a funding framework for the infrastructure investment priorities captured in the Looking to the Future document.
Western Canada’s export driven economies rely heavily on globally competitive transportation gateways and corridors. Transportation infrastructure is the key to maintaining the benefits of Canada’s preferential position within the North American market as well as seizing opportunities in the Asia Pacific and in the world’s emerging markets and creating competitive national advantage for Canada.
To seize opportunities provided by increased trade, Western Premiers encourage the federal government to build on its 2006 budget commitment and make significant investments in gateways, trade corridors, the national highway system and rural and remote roads, border crossings, rail networks, marine networks, ports, airports, inland ports, inter-modal facilities, major urban roads, and transit. Western provinces and territories continue to be the primary funders of transportation infrastructure.
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Director of Cabinet Communications
Province of Manitoba