Bordering On a Disaster: Chamber boss calls for CBSA upgrade

OTTAWA — If the Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA) wants truckers and other border crossers to update their shops and procedures to comply with new border-crossing protocols, then the CVSA should step up with corresponding improvements to its own service.

Such as around-the-clock inspection facilities and single-portal e-manifest programs.

If such changes don’t materialize, the border schmozzle could just get worse and cost the North American economy billions of dollars and 10 million or so jobs.

That’s the word from the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, and it was made clear in the Globe and Mail yesterday in a message from the chamber’s president, Perrin Beatty.

Those of you old enough to remember when Sting could rock’n’roll might remember Beatty as the youngest MP ever. He was first elected to the House of Commons at 22, under Joe Clark.

Now, almost 30 years later, he’s come out swinging on guard for thee, taking aim specifically at our wonky border situation, vis-à-vis the U.S. and security problems.

Beatty is reporting the findings of a report issued by a coalition of 45 Canadian and U.S. business associations, led by the two countries’ chambers of commerce. The report’s called “Finding the Balance: Reducing Border Costs while Strengthening Security.”

And there’s no better time to talk about his report than right now, as Prime Minister Stephen Harper is meeting U.S. President George W. Bush and Mexican President Felipe de Jesus Calderon in New Orleans for the annual leaders’ summit.

Here is a Reader’s Digest version:

Beatty says CBSA has to open major border
crossings 24/7 with fully trained staff.

“Much has been said about the ‘thickening’ of the Canada-U.S. border — the layering of costs and wait times associated with people and goods crossing our shared border — but more must be done,” Beatty states. “For example a truck can sit for hours at the border waiting for inspectors to show up.

“We need to make sure our major border crossings are open 24/7 with fully trained staff capable of undertaking both primary and secondary inspections.

“While companies are being forced to put in place expensive, but needed, electronic filing systems, our governments are not willing to ensure that their agencies that demand border information are capable of accepting the required information through a single electronic window,” he explains.

A small number of companies representing a significant portion of trans-border volume have voluntarily undertaken hefty costs to be designated as low-risk shippers and receive expedited crossings, he notes.

— with files from the Globe & Mail

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