President's Message Issue 71

Summer 2009 CSANews Issue 71  |  Posted date : Jul 21, 2009.Back to list

The new U.S. border requirement for passports or specific identity documents went into effect on June 1, 2009 for all Canadians seeking entry into the United States by land or sea. What do I mean by specific identity documents? An alternative to the Canadian passport is the enhanced driver's licence or enhanced provincial identification card. These secure documents prove both identity and Canadian citizenship. Be aware that many newly redesigned provincial driver's licences are not in fact "enhanced" for the purpose of cross-border travel. Enhanced licences that the U.S. has approved are only available in Ontario, British Columbia, Manitoba and Quebec. Please remember that a passport – not a driver's licence – is required for travel by air.

In addition to an enhanced driver's licence, Canadians also have the option of using the NEXUS card. This card is for pre-approved, low-risk travellers who cross the U.S./Canada border frequently. It costs $50 to apply for the card and applicants have to undergo an interview, photographing and digital inkless fingerprinting. The card is valid for five years and is issued jointly by the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP).

While all of these other identity documents can be quite handy and useful, it has always been our position at the CSA to get a passport! Trust me, it is the single best identity document that you can have when travelling and it is your best bet to get across the border with the least amount of hassle possible.

The United States has indicated that it will take a common-sense approach to implementing this initiative at its land and water ports of entry, which includes a period of flexibility after June 1, 2009. The length and extent of this flexibility is entirely at the discretion of U.S. officials, so don't be caught unprepared. If you haven't done so already, go +and get your passport! Don't run the risk of trying to cross and ending up being turned back at the border.

We will soon have a new U.S. ambassador in Ottawa. On June 4, President Obama nominated David Jacobson, a 57-year-old Chicago lawyer and key Obama fundraiser to be the next U.S. ambassador to Canada. Officially, Mr. Jacobson was the deputy national finance chairman of the Obama campaign and is currently serving as a special assistant to the president, helping to fill key administration posts.

Prior to his involvement in the presidential campaign, Mr. Jacobson spent 30 years as a partner in the Chicago law firm of Sonnenschein Nath & Rosenthal LLP. By all accounts, he lobbied hard for the job and is said to have a close, personal relationship with President Obama which will hopefully translate into good news for Canadian travellers. While his appointment has yet to be confirmed by the U.S. Senate, there is a strong sentiment that it will not be delayed.

More than 400,000 people a day, on average, cross our shared border and trade between our two nations averages out to approximately $1.5 billion dollars a day. Clearly, both nations have an enormous interest in striking the right balance among security, trade and tourism.

We had a great working relationship with Mr. Jacobson's predecessor, ambassador Wilkins, and that did not happen by accident. We worked hard to build that relationship and we will work hard to build this one as well. We look forward to sitting down with Mr. Jacobson in Ottawa just as soon as he is confirmed, and bringing him up to speed on issues of importance to our members.

In 2002, the association released The Canadian Travellers' Report Card, a national evaluation of federal, provincial and territorial government policies of importance to travelling Canadians. In order to gauge the levels of improvement from our initial recommendations, the CSA undertook a follow-up study that we released in 2006.

Well, it is just about that time again and we are about to begin work on our latest edition. It is a vital weapon when we sit down with our elected officials and it is important that we keep it as current and relevant as possible. I will update you about our progress in the next edition of CSANews.

Good news on the membership front. The numbers are in and I am happy to report that this winter, we signed up more new members at our Winter Information Meetings than in any single year in the last five. The more members we have, the louder our voice is heard by our friends in the media and in our legislative assemblies. Hard work pays off …very good news indeed.

Speaking of politicians, I will be devoting a large portion of my summer meeting with them in Ottawa and chasing them back to their constituencies. I will update you about our progress in the fall.

Alice and I wish you a safe and relaxing summer with family and friends.

Pic 1: Bob Slack with Niagara West Glanbrook MPP and Ontario Progressive Conservative leadership candidate Tim Hudak.

Pic 2: Don and Alice Gardiner with Sharon Whiteway and Paul Conrad at a Canadian National Institute for the Blind luncheon.

Pic 3: Bob Slack with Al Rivard, President of the Ottawa RCMP Veteran's Association.

Pic 4: Bob Slack with Ontario's Liberal Municipal Affairs Minister, the Hon. Jim Watson.

Related links
Canadian Travellers' Report Card