Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Smart border, forsooth!

I'm just back from the Canadian long weekend, named in honour of the Queen who gave Canada its independence. I was in Lake Placid, New York, and got there by crossing into the United States at the Seaway International Bridge, which crosses the St. Lawrence River between Cornwall, Ontario, and Massena, New York. This got me to experience a land crossing between the two countries for the first time in a while. All of this talk of the need for a smart border between the United States and Canada needs to confront the hard reality that the border infrastructure as it exists today is far from smart. It's pretty dumb, and really antiquated, and can't handle the large volume of people and commerce that cross everyday. The world's biggest trading relationship needs something better. At Seaway, for example, the bridge itself is in terrible shape, and the pavement all dug up, so that cars and trucks are bottlenecked into a few lanes in each direction. When I crossed, it wasn't particularly busy, but it was already getting backed up. I can only imagine how bad it was for someone who crossed at the very end of the long weekend, last night. The truth is, successive governments in both countries have taken the border for granted, and even 9/11 and its aftermath haven't led to much in the way of the new investment in the necessary infrastructure improvements that would be needed to make the land border crossings halfway decent. I'm not even of talking of a truly smart border, such as exists in Europe in the Schengen area, with a common perimeter around members, allowing for nuisance-free travel with no border inspections, allowing one to cross seamlessly from country to country. Now imagining such a border for the United States and Canada seems so remote as to be only a pipe dream. That's why I say, smart border, forsooth!

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