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Congressman Bill Owens hosted a group of security officials and business leaders at Clarkson University to discuss trade and travel across the US/Canada border. Photo: Natasha Haverty
Congressman Bill Owens hosted a group of security officials and business leaders at Clarkson University to discuss trade and travel across the US/Canada border. Photo: Natasha Haverty

Travel, job creation on table at Owens US/Canada border forum

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In the aftermath of the September 11th attacks, crossing the border with Canada has become a much more difficult experience. Congressman Bill Owens hosted a group of security officials and business leaders at Clarkson University on Friday, April 5, to talk about how to move people and goods over the border securely, and create jobs.

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Natasha Haverty
Reporter and Producer

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Garry Douglas, CEO of the Plattsburgh-North Country Chamber of Commerce, said, "across the North Country, the single greatest economic force, and going forward, the single greatest economic opportunity, is this phenomenon, is this cross-border relationship."

The meeting was a follow-up to "Beyond the Border," an action plan President Obama and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced two years ago. Security and business leaders came up with a long list of obstacles, and an even longer list of action items. But both sides agreed that there are too many rules and regulations slowing down trade without making things safer.

The Honorable Kevin O'Shea, representing the Privy Council Office of the Canadian government, asked, "how is it that two countries like Canada, like the United States that have robust regulatory systems that essentially aim at the same outcomes, why do we have different standards for goods that you could scratch your head, as to why?"

The discussion bounced back and forth between the movement of goods, and the movement of people. Brad Skinner, of the US Department of Homeland Security, said things have already gotten easier for travelers. For example, if you're flying from Ottawa to Miami, with a stop in Chicago, he said your luggage is now screened just once, not twice.

And while the speakers on Friday promoted the ideas in the Beyond the Border plan as innovations, there was a strong feeling of nostalgia in the room, for how fluid cross-border trade and travel used to be. Communities on either side of the US/Canada border have been neighbors for centuries, and according to Garry Douglas, they've never viewed the border as a barrier.

Douglas quoted Robert Frost: "'There's something not to love about a wall, something that wants it down.' And there's nowhere on earth where that sentiment is stronger than with Americans and Canadians."

Congressman Owens and his guests will meet again next year to continue the conversation.

 

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