OTTAWA, Ont. — Shorter border wait times should not be interpreted as a sign that all is well at the Canada/US border, and in fact they may well be masking some serious underlying problems according to the Canadian Trucking Alliance.
CTA chief David Bradley took that message to Parliament Hill when addressing the House of Commons Standing Committee on International Trade. He said any improvement in border crossing wait times is simply a reflection of the economic slowdown and the reduction in cross-border truck traffic. Border processing times have not changed at all, he pointed out.
He also told the committee that the ongoing “thickening” of the US/Canada border remains troublesome for the trucking industry. Bradley pointed out “that when the economy bottoms out, and we begin to see growth again, we will see a return to extended delays at the border.”
“Anything that impairs the efficiency, productivity and reliability of the North American supply chain will have significant ramifications for the US and Canadian economies, which are so highly integrated,” said Bradley. “I’m not sure where the tipping point is, but we have to understand that if we keep heaping costs on transportation and trade – which the trucking industry passes down to its customers – there will be a serious threat to the competitiveness of North American made goods and problems attracting direct investment to North America.
Bradley also addressed controversial comments by the new secretary of the US Department of Homeland Security, Janet Napolitano, who has called for greater security along the Canada/US border.
“Quite frankly, she did not say anything we did not already know,” said Bradley. “As Canadians, our concern should be what additional measures will be introduced on top of what has already been done over the past eight years to create that ‘real’ border.”
The CTA is calling upon the feds to dedicate a Cabinet committee or a specific minister to border-related issues.
“Too many federal departments have had some stake or responsibility for some aspect of the border. We have found it a challenge just to find out who’s who and to get the different people working together,” Bradley said.
“Perhaps the brightest period over the past 8 years for advancing border issues arose out of the Smart Border Accord of 2001. Perhaps what is needed is a Smart Border Accord 2009,” he added. “And, we should also be looking in the mirror, making sure that as Canada rolls out measures such as an electronic truck manifest that we harmonize, to the extent possible, with the US, and that we don’t impose new requirements that will complicate, rather than simplify, the border crossing process.”