Sunday, March 06, 2011

Canada to close several important-to-cyclists border crossings

The "Harper Government" plans to screw canadians who want to cross the border to the USA at several points in Quebec.

A cost saving plan (surely not a service improvement plan!) will see several border crossings closed and others have their hours reduced.

This will happen on April 1. That is in 3 weeks time, so when you are out bike riding in spring and summer, be ready for an unpleasant surprise when the border crossing you used in the past is now firmly closed and you will be making a 25 km+ detour. Thanks to PM Harper!

Why is this bad for cyclists? Because cyclists use quiet roads and quiet border crossings to enjoy recreation and tourism in the beautiful regions along the Canada-US border that defines southern Quebec for a couple of hundred very scenic kilometres.

Two border crossings we think should stay open are at Franklin Centre in southwest Quebec and Glen Sutton in the Eastern Townships.

We don't normally cut-and-paste news stories, but this one is very important to cyclists.

MONTREAL - Three Bloc Québécois members of Parliament were in Washington, D.C., on Thursday, trying to persuade elected officials in Congress to ask the Conservative government to postpone imminent cuts in Canadian border-station services.

The cuts are to take place on April 1. But the Bloc says they should be postponed until the federal government can assess the outcome of new Canada-United States talks on a proposed North American security perimeter.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper and U.S. President Barack Obama announced last month in Washington that the two countries plan to begin negotiations to create a security perimeter.

The goal of the negotiations is to explore grounds for an agreement that would see Canada and the U.S. harmonize certain aspects of their respective refugee, immigration and security laws.

The idea of a security perimeter was first brought up by the U.S. after the 9/11 attacks. The U.S. has made it clear it would be more willing to loosen up border controls between it and Canada if Canada were to agree to create new joint continental security controls.

Given last month's announcement, then, Canada should be working toward keeping border stations open - not closing them, the Bloc says.

Bloc MP Claude Bachand, who represents the Montérégie riding of St. Jean, said from Washington that his delegation was in the process of trying to meet 10 members of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives, or their aides. At 1 p.m., he said they had already met five of the 10.

Among them was Candice Miller, chairperson of the House subcommittee on border and maritime security. Miller is a Republican from Michigan. Bachand is co-chairperson of a House of Commons committee of MPs from ridings in border regions.

"The cuts the Harper government wants to impose make no sense, given the new push for a security perimeter," Bachand said. "But the government won't listen to anybody in Canada. So we have come to Washington to see if we can persuade some of our American friends to put pressure on Ottawa."

As a result of changes announced last fall, the Canada Border Services Agency plans to close three border stations on the Canada-U.S. border on April 1 (including two in Quebec), and cut back the operating hours at another four (including three in Quebec).

The two slated for closing are Franklyn Centre and Jaimeson's Line south of Montreal, near the towns of Franklin and Huntingdon. The three to see their hours cut are Glen Sutton, East Pinnacle and Morses Line, in the Eastern Townships. A customs office in the town of Drummondville is to be closed on April 1, as well.

The cuts are the result of a spending review by the CBSA. That review, in turn, is part of a larger review of government spending that the governing Conservative Party promised as part of its 2008 election platform.

The other two Bloc MPs in Washington with Bachand were Christian Ouellet (Brome-Missisquoi) and Roger Pomerleau (Drummond). They were joined by Ron Moran, president of the union representing CBSA border guards.


This is complete madness.


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