South Dundas - April 4, 2013 - Is it time, once and for all, to close the Cornwall International Border Crossing? Since 2009, the border crossing has
been operated out of "temporary" digs at the foot of the Three-Nations
International Bridge. There has been little-to-no movement to find and
impliment a permanent solution to the issue of location of the Canada
Border Services Agency (CBSA) offices, so maybe it's time to just
close it and move on.
For four years now, residents of the area affected have been told that
"plans are in the works", and that a solution was coming soon. There
have been announcements made about solutions, but as for actual
results, nothing has changed. To permanently move the CBSA offices to
the US side of the border, where the US Department of Homeland
Security has their customs station, takes an act of Congress. That has
not occurred yet. Meanwhile, the new bridge to Cornwall Island has no
provisions for a border station, and the CBSA office cannot be located
on Cornwall Island due to CBSA officers now being armed. No solution
presented is really ideal, or will take too long to implement, or the
solution is a bureaucratic nightmare. To quote Sherlock Holmes, "when
you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however
improbable, must be the truth?"
What would closing the Canadian Crossing mean?
First it means that there would be no northbound traffic across the
south span of the Three Nations Bridge. The bridge could be converted
to southbound only, thus providing improved access into the United
States for transport traffic. This would alleviate other border
crossing points such as Ogdensburg, Champlain or Wellesley Island and
provides a marketing opportunity for more distribution centers and
manufacturing to locate in the Cornwall-area. A quick and easy route
to larger markets.
Second, it would hamper cross-border shopping in the region. Yes it
would mean that shoppers from Massena could not come to Canada, but
with a Canadian Dollar at near-par levels, and goods in Canada costing
20-40 per cent more, and the Harmonized Sales Tax at 13 per cent, how
many US shoppers are there really coming to Cornwall and the area? The
days of Canadian border towns being "retail tourism" centric are over.
Removing the easy ability for Canadians to return from the US after
stocking up on cheap groceries and consumer goods will force more area
residents to "shop local". The convenience factor would be removed.
Same with gambling. How many Canadians hop across the river to
Akwesasne to gamble? That money could be kept here in Canada,
supporting Canadian gambling establishments, which in part fund the
hospitals and schools we use here.
Third, it would further curtail movement of illicit goods across the
border in the area. By not enabling movement north from the US into
Canada, there would be a further reduction of smuggling in the area,
or at least, it would be further reduced from the immediate Cornwall
area. Since the border crossing was moved to the foot of the North
Span of the Three-Nations Bridge, smuggling has decreased, as have the
traffic chases and other spin-off affects of this activity. Yes this
activity might move elsewhere else along the border, but there are
customs facilities already in other areas that can screen and catch
these, Prescott has a new CBSA station, LaColle, Quebec and Hill
Island, Ontario are getting new ones. They can deal with it. Any job
losses from the Cornwall CBSA office permanently closing would be
offset by the need for increased resources at the other stations so in
the end, no one should lose employment.
Lastly, this closure would provide closure(pun intended) to a
situation that has existed for many years. The CBSA border station on
Cornwall Island has been a sore point for relations within the
communities of Akwesasne and Cornwall for many decades. The arming of
CBSA guards was but the last of many reasons for increased tensions on
both sides of the bridge. The nearly four years of doubt cast on a
permanent solution to the immediate border problem has not been
healthy. Governments cannot plan future growth when no one knows what
is going to be settled on. Leadership at all levels of government
certainly have not championed this to a resolution, with responses
ranging from weak to non-existent. Now residents have to wait to see
if a polarized US Congress will allow for the least-worse solution to
the problem be enacted on their soil.
Enough is enough, time to cut
bait and move on. Close the Canadian Crossing, and start mending
fences on all sides.