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Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Because it's for passing through ports, see?

This makes a modicum of sense:

American rules that will require travellers to have a passport to enter the country will strain Canada-U.S. relations more than softwood lumber or the mad cow crisis ever did, Manitoba Premier Gary Doer said Wednesday.

"I think it will be more of an irritant, because more people will be directly impacted," Doer said as he entered a meeting of North American leaders.

While issues such as the softwood lumber dispute affected specific industries, the passport issue has the potential to bug anyone who travels between the two countries [who for some reason forgot to bring his or her passport –ed.], Doer said.

"This will be much more of a people issue," he said. "Softwood lumber was a huge negative drift for five years, and it still remains a file that is going to be debated in this country in terms of what we received and what we gave up, but the border will be a populist issue for all Canadians and, I suggest, many Americans."

There's nothing in there to lose sleep over, but like I said — it's not completely nutso. Enter the McGuinty:

McGuinty has been pushing the idea of enhancing the security features of driver's licences so that they can be used as documentation for travellers.

"It's going to compromise our ability to continue to maintain a friendship that is not derived on the basis of eight-second sound bites that come from my prime minister or your president, but on the basis of me going across the border with my family and interacting with people on the other side and vice versa."

My position on this has only hardened since last I wrote about it: Anyone who has thought this through and determined that Driver's License 2.0 is the way to go either is simply trying to position himself in opposition to the Conservatives or is operating in a totally different universe than I am. A juiced up driver's license isn't going to help Americans and Canadians hold hands. It's not going to help anyone except politicians do anything other than expend titanic quantities of money.

• Tweaking the passport system, for example to increase the term of validity, allow renewals, boost capacity and speed, or reduce cost, involves one bureaucracy — the aptly named Passport Canada. Overhauling the driver's license would involve 15 bureaucracies: the Canadian and American federal governments, plus the 10 provincial and 3 territorial governments and their Ministries of Transport who (absurdly) all issue their own driver's licenses.

• Tweaking the passport system involves no consultation or R&D. If you want to increase the term of validity or lower the price, you just do it. If you want to boost capacity and speed, you hire more people and buy more, um, passport-making machines. Overhauling the driver's license would involve determining just what the Americans require — they themselves have little idea as yet — then determining how to meet those requirements, and then following through. The idea that the 15-Bureaucracy Model could complete that task before the day Canadians need enhanced ID to get into the US is 25-or-so parallels south of absurd.

• Relying on the passport is fiscally fair to Canadians, and just makes sense. Those with no intention of ever leaving Canada don't need one and won't be forced to pay for one. Juicing up the driver's license will pass the costs on to every Canadian driver, which makes no more sense than the idea that a driver's license could prove citizenship in the first place.

I'm willing to listen to valid arguments against the "get a damn passport" approach, but as this has yet to happen I'm not sure any exist. The "a passport is too big" complaint strikes me as a concern limited to those in the habit of crossing the border naked, clutching only a regulation-size wallet. Those who complain about the expense of a passport, meanwhile, seem to forget that a painfully low-tech driver's license renewal (in Ontario at least) costs all of 12 bucks less than a passport and lasts exactly the same length of time. McGuinty seems to think it's psychologically damaging, somehow. Surely this isn't the best the license-boosters can do.

Cross-posted to Tart Cider.

Posted by Chris Selley on May 31, 2006 | Permalink


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I fail to see what the big deal is. When I last entered the US, I showed my passport (as I always do) and was on my way. Never had an easier time.

Moreover, why are these same people who insist on "Canadian sovereignty" (a rather vague term if ever there was one), while at the same time criticizing attempts to interfere with cross-border movement?

This is another pointless issue. God Bless America. God Damn the Liebral Party, the NDP, the CBC, and other privileged interests.

Posted by: Scott | 2006-05-31 5:07:33 PM

Well said, Scott. Piss on Trudeau.

Posted by: Speller | 2006-05-31 5:21:07 PM

Every nation has the right to demand that visitors carry valid, "safe" documentation. Get over it.

If your business activities require a passport to cross the border, get one. And get over it.

If you are taking a holiday in the US, get the passports you need for yourself and your family (you need one each to get across the border with minor children anyway). And if you are or aren't already planning to spend lots of money travelling anyway, get over it.

And if you didn't know this was happening and haven't already received your passport, and might need to cancel your plans, get over it.

This is really about resistance to change; "we have always done it this way and we don't want to change."

There are large numbers of "guest workers" who cross the US border from Mexico every day, and they have proper documentation. So get over it.

Posted by: foobius | 2006-05-31 5:26:33 PM

Right on the money, Chris. Great post.

Posted by: Martin | 2006-05-31 5:51:43 PM

I have been perfectly content over the years to use my passport to cross the US border. However, one passport restriction I would like to see overhauled is the requirement to have a signatory from a particular employment field, i.e. doctor or lawyer etc who has known you for at least 2 years. Having moved around a lot in the last 8 years, I don't have any such ties. I do not have nor do I need a lawyer. Like most Ontarians, I do not have a family doctor (and besides, I have only just lived here 2 years this month). Teachers? I'm a little old to be able to track my teachers down in their retirement homes (most of them hated me anyway!!). Pharmacist? I'm lucky if I can get them to fill my prescription in less than 4 hours, let alone recognize me. And again - I haven't been going there for 2 years.

My last passport is now expired, and I do not have a drivers license. I am effectively as stuck in Canada as someone who has committed a felony and isn't allowed in the US.


Posted by: RightGirl | 2006-05-31 6:46:21 PM

RG, the system does take into account situations such as yours:

"Declaration in lieu of guarantor

If you have not known an eligible guarantor for at least two years, complete form PPTC 132 "Statutory Declaration in Lieu of Guarantor" available from any Passport Canada office.

The "Statutory Declaration in Lieu of Guarantor" form must be sworn to or declared before, and signed by, a person authorized by law to administer an oath or a solemn declaration. If completed outside Canada, a qualified official includes a Canadian or British diplomatic or consular representative, or a qualified local official."

As an engineer myself, working in an engineering firm, I don't have to worry about this, but this alternative doesn't sound so difficult.

You really don't have anyone, even in your extended family, that falls into one of the guarantor categories?

Posted by: Ian in NS | 2006-05-31 7:03:19 PM


I hear they are going allow

Blogger for 2 years …Provided ...

It’s a Blogging Tory

Posted by: nomdenet | 2006-05-31 7:05:55 PM

Ian - orphan.


Posted by: RightGirl | 2006-05-31 7:06:44 PM

This whole thing should be a non-issue. I've had a Canadian passport for over 50 years. What's the big deal? Get over it and get on with it.

Posted by: HJD | 2006-05-31 7:11:00 PM

The Dippers and Liberanos can just stay home and cater to those that they claim to like - all non Americans.
All criminals and illegal immigrants will have to stay right here (no passports for illegal aliens) so they can go to your clean smoke free places and spend your tax money that you provide to illegals without jobs.
The Americans don't want undocumented people going into their country. Forcing all non American 'tourists' to have a passport will curtail that flow of undocumented people using Canada as a launching pad to the U.S.A.
I have no idea how the dumbo (Lib/dip) crowd who have said ugly things, without just cause, about the American people think that they can interfere in the American government's requirement of a passport for American Citizens must be shown to re enter their own country once they leave it. The Dip/Liberanos shriek that Canadians are 'entitled' to American tourist's money and those people should offer the former unfettered access to the latters $$$. I have news for you whining fools; there are lots of nice places to visit in the U.S.A. so they might not want to bother coming to a place with unfriendly people and a smug 'holier than you rednecks' attitude. The anti smoking laws of most of the 'head in Hitlers time frame' provinces will help end the people who might come here to shop and go out for dinner; if they smoke or have a smoker in the crowd, they won't bother. They can go to France instead!!
Canada lost it's edge a long time ago - Live with it! Might have to change your attitude folks. We now have a adult PM and some great ministers who are trying to help the rest of us - some of us know that U.S. is not only our best friend but also the military might that keeps us free. If the Dippers/Liberanos return to power in Ottawa we are doomed.
The Liberano/Dipper crowd think that a change in government in the U.S. to Democrat will be more on side with them. They should do some reading...They should thank their stars every day that George W. Bush is in the President's chair not that lying, cowardly Kerri ding dong; and Thank the Good Lord that Stephen Harper is Prime Minister of Canada. Can any of you imagine the separation mess we would be in now if paule had won the last election?
BTW I don't think there are enough stupid people in the U.S.A. to elect a Democrat. I hope not anyway. Just a tip to Steven Fletcher - a lot of smoker's vote. The 'nanny' state ban in your province is not popular; think first, talk later. Steven Harper is not a 'nanny banner' - adults make their own decisions. PMSH said "I am not a banner, people are going to have a drink and people are going to have a smoke and that is the way life is going to be". Steven Fletcher does not speak for me, Prime Minister, Stephen Harper does.

Posted by: jema54j | 2006-05-31 8:08:31 PM

As I think of it now, I guess that I haven't been up to Canada since 9/8 or 9/9/2001.

What a screw up. I don't think they even asked me for a drivers license. Now I'm going to have to wear clothes and everything.

Posted by: Conrad-USA | 2006-05-31 8:19:13 PM

Strongly agree, Chris. It's not that big a deal to get a passport. Why should governments go through all the bureaucratic pomp and hoopla to set up another secure form of identification, when we'd still need passports to go pretty much anywhere else in the world other than the US.

Posted by: EBD | 2006-05-31 8:26:25 PM

I have a pasport. Its no big deal to get one and I think most Canadians will do so.

But I don't think Canadians are the problem. It is the Americans. Most don't have a passport and I feel Americans will not be inclined to get one. They will holiday or "convention" in their own country. And that is a BIG problem for Canadians.

And we get to thank the liberals for this. When the Americans were contemplating this they asked the government to give their input. But dithers and the ditherals were too busy pissing on the US and try to figure out how to get re-elected at all costs they simply ignored the US and here we are.

horny Toad

Posted by: Horny Toad | 2006-05-31 11:54:10 PM

I think the commenters thusfar are missing the point of concern that Mr. Doers (and others) is expressing.

It's not the need for Canadians getting a passport that troubles him (and me). It's that if Americans want to travel to Canada they too will have to have a passport to be able to return back to the US.

Many, many Americans who would otherwise visit Canada will decide not to bother because of this hurdle. Think of what it would do to day tripper travel in the Niagara Falls area. It is this problem that is causing Alaska a great deal of concern because it would hurt them too.

The solution is for Canada to demonstrate a desire and then put into practice very strict enforcement of visitor stays from countries other than the US and much better patrols of the ports of entry. If we do that then there is a chance the US will relax the rules.

Posted by: Gord Tulk | 2006-06-01 12:40:07 AM

Great Post. There is no way the various parties involved could gear up as fast as streamlining the Canadian and American passport offices would be, so delay or no delay on the deadline they should: extend term of passports issued to ten years; reduce price of a passport and introduce technology and people to issue passports as expeditiously a possible.

Something I strongly advocate is for the Canadian border people not to stiffen our entry standards. Let as many Americans into the country without passports as we can and let the American border people deal with a bunch of angry voters who can't get back into the States. Not our problem.

Random items.

Seems to me that US passports are ten years to our five year term. Could be wrong, but pretty sure.

EU/Eire is ten years.

Stoopid SK driver's license is annual at $20/year - just a scrap of cardboard that fits into an optional plastic sleeve with a photo id that is not the real DL. It's the cardboard that is the "license".

Noticed that both US and Canadian passport renewals are tightening up the last few years. American friends who live here are going through more hoops to renew. The engineer who signed my daughter's renewal form for her Cdn passport was actually called to confirm.

Posted by: Paul | 2006-06-01 7:23:48 AM

I agree with Gord Tulk, its not Canadians requiring a passport that is bothersome, its Americans returning to the USA which is the big sticking point. When you consider that 60% of US senators have never owned a passport, what do you think the percentage is among ordinary folks? Will they spend the money and go to the trouble just to cross the Canadian border for the day?

There is no easy solution short of the status quo, tightening up controls in Canada on other nationals wont change a thing .

Posted by: David | 2006-06-01 7:41:13 AM

re: "Not our problem"

Went from posting to read Reuters article about some recent border tightening in New England:

"The tougher scrutiny of travelers slowed border traffic to a crawl on Canada's May 22 Victoria Day holiday, frustrating not only Canadians but also U.S. businesses near the border which had expected Canadians to crowd into stores armed with a currency at its strongest level against the dollar since 1978."

"Some angry business owners telephoned their state senator or the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to complain after the delays hurt sales, said Dennis Michaud, executive director of the Greater Madawaska Chamber of Commerce in Maine"

Consider the outcry to congressmen and senators from US voters stranded at a Canadian border designed like a lobster trap - easy to get into - hard to get out of. We have absolutely no responsiblity to make sure people can get back to the States. The smart ones without a passport (oxymoron?) would notice the fuss and not come to Canada, but the dumb ones would keep coming and are more likely to be highly vocal to their politicians.

I'm sure the Mexicans would be more than willing to do the same. Canada and Mexico would have fewer day trippers, but they would tend to stay much longer than a day if they couldn't get back into the States.

I'm retired now, but noticed over the years the most effective way to fight stupid decisions was not to "fight" them but to go along with them and not try to fix them so they worked. The obvious, but unintended consequences usually took care of what didn't work with far less stress than pointing out the pitfalls and arguing about it before implementation. Passive but effective.

Posted by: Paul | 2006-06-01 7:50:53 AM

"Drive to the border and just before you see US Customs official you just stop, say your name to the microphone, put your thumb on a pad and get your mug shot taken."

That is only great if you are the only one in the car. Even if they put pads on both sides of the car, small car people won't be able to reach one side and large van people either won't fit or those in the back without windows that open will have to exit the vehicle. Passing passports to a person is easier when in a vehicle.

About drivers licenses, minors and those without a drivers license will still need a passport.

Lowering the fee for a passport would be fine as long as the fee covers the cost. It is a user fee, so those of us who do not travel outside of the country will not need to pay for it through our taxes.

About cross boarder shopping, I am not convinced as to how much it will hurt. Some people on both sides will opt to shop where they live rather than get a passport. The problem will be if the numbers are not proportional.

John M Reynolds

Posted by: jmrSudbury | 2006-06-01 8:34:10 AM

The Dalton in nanny state Ontario sounds like he is trying to avoid paying for all the counselling that will be required if his flock are forced to have to remember to carry their passports when they travel. Good god ... to be foreced to remember something!!! They sure aren't teaching that skill in school any more.

I know this is really tough, but if they can remember to bring their car, wallet, credit card, suit case, etc, they can remember their passport too. This isn't high school where you can say "the dog ate my passport" this the real life where we now must

"haff owa papass in oodah"

This is what happens when you let so many hostiles in your country. There is a huge and growing price to pay for multi cultural and bad immigration policies and this is simply one of them.

Posted by: John | 2006-06-01 9:15:01 AM

I'd bet that the passport thing will be "blamed" for a lot of cross border retail business which evaporated with the stronger Canadian dollar.

Maybe you can add a new government agency, the "Make Canadian Businesses More Price Competitive Agency" and fund it with a $5,000 annual enrollment fee assessed against each existing business and each new start up business.

Posted by: Conrad-USA | 2006-06-01 11:39:07 AM

Dalton McGuinty did his bit to kill cross border tourism by banning smoking at restaurants and casinos. 9/11 did a nasty job at cutting attendance in Niagara Falls and Windsor casinos, now this will seal it. Ever see a slot jockey play for hours and NOT smoke. And I haven't even mentioned the crappy exchange rate, another issue too..

Posted by: Mitch | 2006-06-01 1:41:33 PM

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