OUR OPINION: ‘Thickened’ border throttles trafficThe post-Sept. 11 “thickened” border continues to choke cross-border traffic.
By: Tom Dennis, Grand Forks Herald
The good news for Grand Forks is that Canadian traffic to the U.S. is expected to spike starting June 1. That’s when Canada will raise its limits on how much Canadians can buy without paying a customs tax.
And as a result, “Canadians will flood the U.S. border this summer to shop in numbers not seen in two decades, according to a BMO Capital Markets report released Thursday,” the Toronto Star reported.
The bad news is that the post-Sept. 11 “thickened” border keeps choking cross-border traffic in general. The number of American tourists going to Canada has plummeted; and as high as it is, the number of Canadians visiting the U.S. almost certainly would be even higher if the passport rule and other requirements had not taken effect.
“The number of overnight American travelers visiting Canada has fallen by 23 percent over the past decade,” reports the Fraser Institute, a Toronto think tank.
“The number of same-day return trips has declined by 69 percent. Taken together, total person trips by American residents to Canada has fallen by 53 percent, down from 43.9 million in 2000 to 20.5 million in 2009.”
America’s economic slump and the Canadian dollar’s rise have something to do with those trends. But “the decline started well before 2008,” the Fraser Institute notes.
A bigger role likely was played by the passport requirement and other elements of border security.
The net result: “It’s likely that at minimum $7 billion in potential receipts were lost to the Canadian economy,” according to the institute.
As for the southbound traffic, there’s a reason why the above analysis by BMO Capital Markets talks about “numbers not seen in two decades,” said BMO deputy chief economist Douglas Porter in the Toronto Star story.
According to Porter, “the last time Canadians crossed the border to shop in large numbers was in early 1990s.” That’s when Canada raised its sales tax and the Canadian dollar was at something close to parity with the American greenback.
“But back then, it was a lot easier to cross the border,” the Toronto Star story noted.
And as Porter said in the story, “border delays and hassles, the high price of gas, the availability of online shopping and the passport requirements for trips to the U.S. have kept visits below the peak levels of the early 1990s.”
Amidst these reports of border thickening comes the news that Australia and New Zealand are putting their own border on a crash diet.
“Passport-free ‘Anzac express paths’ between Australia and New Zealand should be established in both countries, the peak tourism body says,” the Global Travel Industry News reported.
“The Tourism and Transport Forum has proposed a ‘common border’ between the two countries that would require only photo ID, similar to arrangements for domestic travel.”
As the head of the tourism forum put it, “The benefits of streamlining border arrangements and freeing up travel between Australia and New Zealand are manifold and extremely valuable to both countries.”
Besides money, something else was lost when the U.S. and Canada ended their own “common border” arrangement that had worked so well for so long. The two governments should follow Australia and New Zealand’s lead and see about bringing that arrangement back.
— Tom Dennis for the Herald