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CSANews
|
SPRING 2012
CSA
update
Government Relations
report
Ron Steeves
First Vice-President
I am pleased and honoured
to have been
elected first vice-president of the Canadian
Snowbird Association and appointed chair
of the Government Relations Committee.
In the last edition of
CSANews
, we were
pleased to announce the introduction
of the
VISIT-USA
Act
in the United States
Senate. After much lobbying, we were suc-
cessful in convincing U.S. Senators Chuck
Schumer (D-NY) and Mike Lee (R-UT) to in-
clude our proposal for a “Canadian Retiree
Visa” in the bill. If passed by both houses
of Congress, Canadians over the age of 50
(with derivative benefits to a spouse and
minor children) would be permitted a visa
that would last for 240 days a year and
would be renewable every three years.
Along with the age provision the individual
must be a Canadian citizen who owns a
residence in the United States or can prove
that they have purchased rental or hotel
accommodations for the duration of their
visit. This would allow approved applicants
to spend an additional two months in the
United States, as most Canadians are now
generally limited to a stay of six months in
any 12-month period.
Again, this legislation must be passed
by both houses of Congress. Both the
United States Senate and the House of Rep-
resentatives must approve the creation of
this visa and it must also be signed by the
President of the United States. So now that
we have made some significant progress
in the Senate, how are we doing on the
Presidential and House of Representatives
fronts?
Since the last edition of
CSANews
, we
now have an identical bill introduced in
the U.S. House of Representatives and, if
that weren’t enough, as with our Senate
bill this one has also been introduced with
bipartisan support. In November of 2011,
Congresswoman Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii)
and Congressman David Dreier (R-CA)
introduced the
VISIT-USA Act
in the House
of Representatives. This means that we
currently have bills which would create
our retiree visa in both houses of Congress
which is remarkable progress, considering
we started knocking on doors in Washing-
ton, D.C. in June 2011.
The list of third-party stakeholders
who have formally endorsed this proposal
continues to grow. There are now formal
endorsements from some of themost influ-
ential groups in the United States. Support-
ers include the U.S. Chamber of Commerce,
U.S. Travel Association, Americans for Tax
Reform, American Hotel and Lodging As-
sociation, National Association of Home-
builders, National Restaurant Association,
U.S. Olympic Committee and many more.
Both bills have been referred to their
respective congressional judiciary commit-
tees for further debate and our short-term
focus has nowshifted to lobbyingmembers
of these committees to push these bills out
for full votes in both the Senate and House
of Representatives. We expect committee
hearings to take place towards the end of
May 2012.
President Obama has also indicated
that increasing travel and tourism to the
United States is a key priority in this elec-
tion year and that’s a good thing for Can-
adian snowbirds. In 2010, the U.S. hosted
nearly 60 million international visitors, who
then spent $134 billion. Although that’s a
great deal of money, the U.S. market share
of spending by international travellers fell
from17 per cent to 11 per cent of the global
market from 2000 to 2010, more than a 30
per cent decrease in the U.S. share of the
global market.
This decrease is the result of increased
international competition, changing pat-
terns in global development and stricter
security requirements after 2001. President
Obama recognizes the importance of the
travel and tourism industry to the U.S.
economy and believes that a co-ordinated
policy, consistent with protecting national
security, is needed to support a prosperous
and secure travel and tourism industry in
the United States.
On January 19, 2012, President Obama
signed an Executive Order establishing a
task force on travel and competitiveness.
Their job is to develop a new tourism strat-
egy focused primarily on creating jobs by
increasing the United States’ market share
of worldwide travel. The Secretaries of Com-
merce and the Interior serve as co-chairs of
the taskforce. President Obama has also
directed the Secretaries of State and Home-
land Security to submit a report by the end
of April 2012 detailing their progress on
achieving goals that will increase travel and
tourism to the United States.
The point is that President Obama is
attaching deadlines to these reports which
fall before the November 2012 election. In
short, our proposal is just the sort of thing
for which the president is looking to help
him achieve his goal of getting more tour-
ists to spend more money in the United
States. In fact, he announced this new
initiative at Disney World so that it would
receive widespread media coverage. In his
view, embracing proposals such as ours is a
political win for him and that’s a good pos-
ition for us to be in during an election year.
As evidenced by the bipartisan sponsorship
which our bills have received in Congress,
proposals that bring more tourism dollars
to the United States have broad appeal on
both sides of the political aisle. By the time
you read this, we’ll be back in Washington,
D.C. continuing the fight.