President's Message - Issue 75

Summer 2010 CSANews Issue 75  |  Posted date : Jul 20, 2010.Back to list

In the last edition of CSANews, I asked you to contact the office and tell us how you felt about the concept of a "retired person's visa," which would essentially allow the holder access to the United States over a defined period of time for unlimited stays. Well, you have certainly done that, and the overwhelming consensus of those from whom we've heard is that this is an issue which is definitely worth pursuing.

Comprehensive immigration reform is high on U.S. President Obama's political radar, so this may well prove to be an ideal window of opportunity for us. Our next steps are to schedule meetings with members of the U.S. Congress and Senate. Canadian concerns are not always top of mind for our neighbours to the south, so we definitely have our work cut out for us. Fortunately, we'll (hopefully) have some help in the form of The Congressional Friends of Canada Caucus…the caucus is a bipartisan group of members of Congress working to enhance the relationship between Canada and the United States.

Specifically, the caucus focuses on tourism, border security and commerce and energy co-operation issues. The CSA has worked in the past with caucus co-chairs Henry E. Brown, Jr. (R-SC) and James Oberstar (D-MN) and we are hopeful that they will be able to assist us in getting this on the political agenda in Washington. The congressional members who comprise this group understand that the United States and Canada are each other's largest trading partners, with more than $1.3 billion in trade crossing the border every day.

It is estimated that 5.5 million U.S. jobs depend directly on Canadian imports, and Canadian snowbirds are at the top of that list. They understand that tens of thousands of Canadians spending more time and money in their country is a good thing for the U.S. economy, and we are hopeful that when we make our case to their political colleagues in Washington, they will see this self-evident value and help us get this done. We are in the process of scheduling meetings in Washington over the summer and into the early fall. The time for action is now, and we will keep you updated on our progress.

Come January, there will be a new governor of the State of Florida. Current Governor Charlie Crist has announced that he will not seek re-election and has instead, decided to run for a seat in the United States Senate. One of the early favourites to replace him is Florida's current attorney general, Bill McCollum.

Prior to serving as Florida's attorney general, Mr. McCollum spent more than 20 years as a member of the United States House of Representatives (congressman) representing the greater Orlando area. While in Congress, Mr. McCollum introduced a bill to create a retired person's visa. Although that bill obviously did not succeed the first time around, Mr. McCollum is keenly aware of how important snowbird dollars are to the Floridian economy.

Unlike many politicians, he has a track record of actually attempting to do something about some of the issues that matter to our members. Mr. McCollum is seeking the Republican nomination for governor of the State of Florida and that vote takes place on August 24, with the general election to follow on November 2. Snowbirds who winter in Florida will be watching these races closely.

I was recently in Ottawa for a discussion with the senior management team at Passport Canada. As many of you are aware, the CSA fought hard to convince the federal government to extend the life of the Canadian passport from five to 10 years. Countries such as the United States, United Kingdom and Australia already have passports that are valid for 10 years. The government initially announced that these new passports would begin rolling out in 2011... we have now learned that this will be delayed until sometime in 2012. Having said that, they are coming and the new passport will offer adult applicants the choice of a five- or 10-year validity period.

The new passports will be known as ePassports, which are biometric and contain a contactless chip on which a digital image of the bearer's face will be stored. This chip will also contain many security features to prevent fraud, forgery and the misuse of the data. These data are not secret and this is the same information that appears on page 2 of your current passport, which can already be read by the naked eye.

More than 65 countries are already issuing these types of biometric passports. All EU countries (except Cyprus) and all G8 countries (except Canada) have already adopted the ePassport. Of course, the big question is how much will this new passport cost? Currently, the cost of a 24-page Canadian passport is $87, while the cost of the equivalent U.S. passport is $97.

The big difference of course is that in the U.S., the $97 is buying you a travel document which is valid for 10 years, not five. Part of the delay is that there's a debate taking place right now regarding cost. No doubt the price will increase, at least for the 10-year passport, but we are lobbying hard to ensure that the increase is minimal and that it will be more than offset by the convenience of not having to renew for a decade.

I plan on spending most of my summer tracking down our elected officials in their constituency offices and I look forward to updating you on our progress in the fall, particularly with respect to the retiree visa issue.

Have a safe and relaxing summer.