US Ambassador to Canadians: Get a passport

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OTTAWA, Ont. — Despite efforts by Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty and other Canadian officials to convince the US to back off its passport requirements under the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative, US Ambassador to Canada David Wilkins suggests all Canadians should get a passport.

Canadians will have to show passports to cross into the US at land border crossings as early as January, 2008 and by June, 2009 at the latest under the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative. Despite the protests of Canadian (and some US) legislators, Wilkins re-iterated that Canadians should not take chances and that he is confident the current administration will forge ahead with its passport requirements.

I believe it will happen sometime during this administration, Wilkins said during a speech yesterday. I believe we need to get ready for it and so, simply put, the message I try to give to Americans and to Canadians is Get a passport. Its that simple.

Premier McGuinty has said Ontario would prefer to develop a high-tech drivers licence to meet the US requirement but so far theres little to suggest it would be accepted as an alternative.

Wilkins admitted, however, the licence plan is a continuing work in progress.

The question is, will enhanced drivers licences be ready to go and the technology ready to be implemented by the time the land portions are implemented? he said.

– With files from Canadian Press

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