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Border communities mend relationship

FREDERICTON, N.B. -- With relations between Canada and the U.S strained at the most senior levels of government, Ne...

FREDERICTON, N.B. — With relations between Canada and the U.S strained at the most senior levels of government, New Brunswick wants to reinforce the relationship with its closest American neighbour.

Premier Bernard Lord and Maine Gov. John Baldacci are exploring the idea of bringing together elected lawmakers from New Brunswick and Maine for a Legislator’s Forum in the fall of 2003.

“It will be important for us and for our friends in the U.S. to demonstrate that at the provincial and state level, we’re still there working together,” Lord says. “If we want to sustain the programs and services we want for people, we can not close this border.”

Relations between the federal governments of Canada and the U.S. have been taxed by Canada’s refusal to back the U.S. in its war against Iraq. President George W. Bush just cancelled his planned May visit to Ottawa, ostensibly because the situation in Iraq requires his full attention.

New Brunswick and Maine first discussed the idea of a joint forum for legislators in 2001, but the concept never materialized.

Premier Lord is now committed to revisiting that idea.

“This is important. It’s more important now than it was two years ago,” he says. “Recent events could have an impact, and we want to make sure it’s not a lasting impact.”

Lord has discussed the idea of a joint forum with Mr. Baldacci, who succeeded Angus King as Maine’s governor in November.

“The new governor of Maine indicated to me that he would be supportive of that idea as well,” Lord says. “We agreed that we would collectively work together to hold that forum."

It would involve bringing together selected MLAs from New Brunswick and elected representatives from the Maine legislature to hear from keynote speakers on topics of mutual interest, such as trade ties between the jurisdictions.

“This would be an event to highlight friendship and co-operation, the trade relations that exist between Maine and New Brunswick.”

“We want to maintain an open border. Two-way trade between the U.S. and Canada is important to our economy and it’s important to our way of life and quality of life,” Lord says.

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