WASHINGTON, DC — Rep. Louise M. Slaughter, chairwoman of the House Rules Committee, met today with Michael Wilson, Canadian Ambassador to the US; Dalton McGuinty, Premier of Ontario; Shawn Graham, Premier of New Brunswick; and Gary Doer, Premier of Manitoba to discuss fixing the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI).
Also discussed was the Protecting American Commerce and Travel Act, or PACT Act, authored by Rep. Slaughter and Rep. John McHugh. The bill, which the Congresswoman recently reintroduced for the second time to the House of Representatives, is designed to ensure that WHTI will not unintentionally freeze trade and tourism with Canada. A strong coalition of travel and business groups has endorsed the bill, including the US Chamber of Commerce, the Travel Industry Association of America, the Travel Business Roundtable, and the Binational Tourism Alliance.
After the meeting, Rep. Slaughter delivered a major policy speech at the US Chamber of Commerce Leader’s Luncheon on WHTI, during which she outlined the need to reform the plan and explained how her PACT Act would achieve that goal.
“WHTI is a looming crisis that has the potential to greatly harm the strong and mutually-beneficial relationship America has long shared with Canada,” Rep. Slaughter said. “We must do all we can to prevent this crisis from reaching the breaking point. We can have a smart and secure shared border, but only if the Departments of Homeland Security and State take a step-back and realize that their current plan will devastate cross border travel and trade.
“Unfortunately, DHS and State are still moving forward with their deeply flawed plan, and so Congress must force them back to the drawing board,” Rep. Slaughter continued. “The PACT Act I recently reintroduced in the House of Representatives should serve as the blueprint for WHTI reform. The Premiers and I remain optimistic that the ideas contained in it are gaining momentum.”
In an announcement last week, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff officially agreed to exempt children aged 15 and under from the requirements of WHTI. Rep. Slaughter had been calling for this exemption since last May. In addition, the chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, Rep. Bennie Thompson, has agreed to hold a hearing on both the PACT Act and WHTI as soon as next month.
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