‘Politics’ behind backlogs, says border town mayor

Most days, the mayor of Sarnia, Ont., can see the Canada/U.S. border crossing from his office window. For Mike Bradley, it’s not a pretty sight.

“The U.S. are now using security as a new tariff barrier,” he said.

Bradley believes that new fees and regulations are being used by the U.S. to create delays in the interest of security.

“This is not an infrastructure problem, but a political one,” he said.

The mayor’s concerns come in the wake of President Barack Obama’s visit to Ottawa on Feb. 19 . At a press conference in Ottawa, both the president and Prime Minister Stephen Harper spoke about their desire to open up border crossings.

Bradley favours border controls in Europe, where, he said, there’s a “free flow of goods, people and services” unencumbered by draconian security measures and unnecessary fees.

Among those potential barriers to trade and traffic are U.S. plans to require Canadians to present passports at border crossings by next summer.

The Ontario government has countered with an enhanced driver’s licence that, it says, will expedite waiting-times at major border crossings in Ontario when the system is launched in June.

Mary Furguson, director of communications branch, at the Ontario Ministry of Tourism, likes the idea.

“Enhanced drivers’ licences will enable Ontarians crossing the border to do so without the need for a passport,” she said.

While the Ontario government tries to ease border passage, many who work in the transportation business, including Mike Donahue, general manager of International Freight Systems Inc., based in Tilbury, Ont. see an entirely different problem. And it’s not delays at the border.

“I haven’t seen much trouble crossing the border,” he said.

Donahue’s company, which hauls mainly steel, has experienced a 30 per cent decline in business since last fall’s economic downturn. That has forced International Freight  to lay-off workers at their Oshawa depot.