WASHINGTON, D.C.– The Canada-U.S. preclearance agreement signed in March 2015 by U.S. President Barack Obama and now-former Prime Minister Stephen Harper has stalled. The deal is awaiting enabling legislation in both countries and could now depend on a lame-duck session of the U.S. Congress to get the boost it needs to become law, reported the Financial Post.
The Canadian government, businesses and lobby groups are all pushing to move the necessary legislation through the U.S. Congress before the end of the year. They hope that a bill will pass between the election and inauguration, the lame duck session. In Canada, Bill C-23 passed first reading in the House in June.
About 400,000 people cross the Canada-U.S. border daily. Canada is the United States’ second-largest trading partner, with two-way trade valued at more than $2 billion every day. Preclearance facilities already exist at eight Canadian airports. The new deal will expand preclearance to two new airports, Billy Bishop in Toronto and Jean Lesage Quebec City, to the Montreal train station and Rocky Mountaineer in Western Canada. It will also allow for future expansion in other air, rail and marine facilities.
Although the bill has the support of both U.S. parties, Congress is currently adjourned, and won’t return until after the election, on Nov. 14. At that point it has very few sitting days before the end of the year.
Both the House and Senate have drafted bills to address preclearance. But there is faint hope that they will advance far enough in the time left.
Experts say it’s possible to pass legislation using the Department of Homeland Security appropriations bill. Including this type of legislation in an appropriations bill has been done before. Last year, Congress repealed country of origin labelling rules, that were hurting Canadian farmers, through their omnibus appropriations bill. But fears are the process would still move too slowly, FP reported.