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N.B. Minister calls for border bill delay

Article source: Telegraph-Journal

 

Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Greg Thompson is asking for a delayed implementation of Bill C-21 to gain clarity on how its enactment will impact Campobello Island residents.

 

Thompson told the Telegraph-Journal in an interview Thursday he is sending a letter to the federal minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, Ralph Goodale, to ask for the delay. 

 

The bill received royal ascent on Dec. 13 and amends the Customs Act, allowing the Canada Border Services Agency to collect basic biographic information on all travellers departing Canada by land or air.

 

Currently, Canada only shares information on foreign nationals, permanent residents and American citizens with the U.S.

 

With the implementation of the bill, information on all travellers, including Canadians, will be shared to create a full picture of a person's travel history. 

 

The bill was one of the requirements included in the Beyond the Border initiative announced by Prime Minister Harper and President Barack Obama in 2011.

 

For residents of Campobello Island, a community of about 800 whose only connection to mainland Canada is through a bridge to Maine, the bill offers what Thompson calls "further thickening of the border."

 

A long drive

Outside of a private ferry that runs from the end of June to the end of September, residents of Campobello Island are forced to drive 77 kilometres across Maine to enter New Brunswick through the St. Stephen border.

 

The ferry has not run since 2017, and many residents' daily routine includes crossing the border.

 

The Telegraph-Journal reported earlier this week that Sen. David Adams Richards formally made a request for a full-time ferry by attaching it to the report of Bill C-21.

 

Now, Thompson is hoping to set up a meeting with Goodale to discuss the possible implications it could have for the people of Campobello Island, and ask for clarity on how this will impact residents. 

 

“The uncertainty is the biggest issue because we can’t in a definitive way say this is exactly how it’s going to be implemented,” he said.

 

Missed opportunity

Thompson alleges Campobello's federal representative missed a key opportunity to discuss the bill's possible ramifications. 

 

When it was on the floor of the House of Commons, he said New Brunswick Southwest MP Karen Ludwig did not take part in the debate. 

 

“I would argue that she paid scant attention to it and never showed up,” said Thompson, who formerly held Ludwig’s position for six terms as a Conservative. “That’s where some of the clarification would take place, and some of the concerns she would have, especially regarding Campobello Island, would be on the record.”

 

In response, Ludwig said she is part of the Standing Committee on International Trade that was meeting at the time of the second reading. On third reading, she said she was in Detroit, meeting with the Minister of International Trade on the NAFTA debates.

 

But Ludwig argues that she hasn't been idle.

 

She says she has spoken directly with Goodale and Minister of Border Security and Organized Crime Reduction Bill Blair on the issue. 

 

"If there is an unintended consequence, I will be the first one in the office of Goodale."

 

Ludwig said the new legislation allows for the collection of data on who is entering and exiting the country, helps the government prevent individuals from leaving the country to join terrorist groups, helps stop human trafficking and better reacts to amber alerts. She said Bill C-21 would allow for better border protection from drugs and contraband, and passed with bi-partisan support from both Liberals and Conservatives.

 

While she said she agrees with Thompson's decision to ask for clarity, she said the focus on the bill is missing the mark, arguing the real problem impacting island residents is the lack of ferry service. 

 

One more burden

In the end, Campobello Mayor Stephen Smart said the bill is just one more thing for residents and travellers to consider. 

 

"In short, any extra paperwork for exiting the country will be a burden on us, and a deterrent to growing the population beyond the few who choose to return home," he said.

 

From 1996 to 2016, Campobello Island has seen a 33 per cent decrease in its population, now standing at about 800. 

 

Smart says a direct link to the Canadian mainland is a necessity for the permanent residents to continue living on the island. 

 

An Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency-funded study may offer the necessary boost.

 

Vaughn McIntyre, the man responsible for the year-round ferry study, said the final report has been completed. He said it is expected to be discussed at the next council meeting. 

 

Author: Robert Williams (Telegraph-Journal)

 

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