Government Relations Report

Winter 2010 CSANews Issue 77  |  Posted date : Dec 06, 2010.Back to list

The United States' 2010 midterm elections are now in the books and the political landscape has shifted significantly. Elections were held for all 435 seats in the House of Representatives. Republicans made a net gain of 64 seats from Democrats, thus giving them control over the house for the first time since 2006. This represents the highest house victory for any party since 1948 and the highest of any midterm election since 1938.  Of the 100 total seats in the United States Senate, only 37 were up for grabs in this round of elections. The U.S. Constitution provides that only 1/3 of the Senate will be up for re-election every two years. As we go to press, Republicans had gained six of those seats from Democrats and, although Democrats still retain control of the Senate, this will make passing legislation far more challenging without some meaningful level of bipartisan support. 

So what does this mean for Canadian snowbirds? As you may recall, one of our more significant lobbying initiatives planned for 2011 deals with the introduction of a "retiree visa" that would potentially allow the holder access to the United States over a defined period of time for unlimited stays. From a purely practical point of view, there are now many new faces in both the Senate and the House of Representatives who will have to be brought up to speed on this initiative. Although many of the faces have changed, we are confident that they will understand that tens of thousands of Canadian snowbirds spending more time and money in their country and districts is a good thing for the struggling U.S. economy. 

The other question revolves around where comprehensive immigration reform now falls on President Obama's political radar? This is significant, as a proposal such as a retired person's visa would likely need to be part of a larger legislative initiative.

Some have said that the Republican resurgence may spell the end of this discussion - at least temporarily - while others suggest that it may simply change the focus of the proposed reforms. There are some who insist that the federal government must provide a pathway to citizenship for millions of undocumented workers in the U.S., while others believe that tighter border control and economic considerations must be the focus. Whether or not a bill emerges from the White House or from the Republican-controlled congress, I believe that this is a discussion which is going to pick up speed between now and the 2012 elections and we need to be part of that. We will have a detailed report of our progress in the Spring 2011 edition of CSANews.

On leaving or entering Canada by air or land or sea lately, have you noticed the lack of a lineup in the Nexus lane and the long lineups in all of the other lanes?  We seem to have less and less time to do all of the things we would like to do, so why should we waste time in lineups?  What value do you put on your time?
Nexus is designed to expedite the border-clearance process for low-risk, pre-approved travellers into Canada and the United States.

The Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) are co-operating in this joint venture to simplify border crossing for members, while enhancing security. 

If you are approved to participate in NEXUS, you will receive a membership identification card to use when entering Canada or the United States at all designated NEXUS air, land and marine ports of entry.

Membership benefits of this program will enable you to save time by using automated self-serve kiosks in dedicated areas at designated international airports, using dedicated lanes at the land border, and reporting to border officers by phone in advance of your arrival via the marine mode of transportation.

As added benefits under the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI), Canadian and U.S. citizens may also use their NEXUS membership cards to fulfil the travel documents requirements of the WHTI.  A NEXUS membership card may be used as an alternative to a passport when entering the United States by air (when used at kiosks in designated airports in Canada) or at all land and water ports of entry.

For more information or to apply, go to www.nexus.gc.ca or phone 1-866-NEXUS-26.

So think about whether the NEXUS card would help you as a Canadian traveller. It may just be the easier way to leave or enter Canada!

Last but not least, we have been having some very productive discussions with the government of Manitoba concerning how long Manitobans may remain out of the province without losing their provincial health insurance. We have a meeting scheduled in January with Manitoba's health minister and I'm hopeful that we'll soon have good news for our Manitoba members, which will allow them some added flexibility with their out-of-province travel plans.

Alayne and I would like to wish all of you a very Merry Christmas and a happy holiday season.