Government of Ontario

Government of Ontario

Government of Manitoba

Government of Manitoba

February 27, 2007 12:48 ET

Unique Canadian and American Partnership Calls for Options to Passport Requirement to Be Explored

WASHINGTON, DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA--(CCNMatthews - Feb. 27, 2007) - A group of American business and Canadian political leaders is teaming up to urge the departments of State (State) and Homeland Security (DHS) to explore alternatives to a passport before implementing the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI) passport requirement at land and sea entry points.

Three Canadian premiers and leaders from the American travel industry are concerned that the WHTI will diminish trade and tourism, cost jobs and disrupt the daily lives of American and Canadian citizens if not properly implemented.

The group is calling upon State and DHS to use the extended deadline of June 1, 2009, granted by Congress to allow for the development and testing of options other than a passport and to ensure that the necessary infrastructure, training and technology are funded and in place along the Canada-U.S. border. The group is also calling for greater bilateral co-operation between the two federal governments in exploring and testing options.

The premiers, who include Dalton McGuinty of Ontario, Gary Doer of Manitoba and Shawn Graham of New Brunswick, note that the Conference Board of Canada estimates that the WHTI would reduce travel spending by Americans coming to Canada by $3 billion from 2005 to 2010.

"Families on both sides of the border want our governments to work together to enhance security while protecting jobs in the travel and tourism industry," said McGuinty. "We're proposing that a new, high-security driver's licence be considered as an alternative to the passport so that trade and tourism can keep flowing across the border."

Jonathan M. Tisch, chair of the Travel Business Roundtable and chair and CEO of Loews Hotels, said that travel and tourism is a $703 billion industry in the U.S. While travel from overseas is down 17 per cent since 2000, it has increased by 10 per cent from Canada and Mexico.

"Canadians are our largest inbound market. In order to ensure that legitimate travel continues to flow across the Canada-U.S. border, secure alternatives to a passport that are not prohibitively expensive, such as a pass card, must be made available to both Canadians and Americans," said Tisch.

Canada is the largest export market for 38 states, with two-way trade supporting an estimated 5.2 million American jobs. J.W. Marriott, Jr., chair and CEO of Marriott International, Inc. and chair of the President's Export Council, said, "Canada is our ally, neighbour and largest trading partner. Getting WHTI wrong could damage this relationship and economies on both sides of the border. Our governments must work co-operatively to get it right," said Marriott.

"Once the U.S. government has co-ordinated with the Canadian government on the development, testing and distribution of passport alternatives, it is critical that an aggressive government-led communication campaign be launched, giving ample time for the traveling public to understand the document requirements and plan for their future travel. Billions of dollars and goodwill between our two nations are at stake." said Roger Dow, president and CEO of the Travel Industry Association.

Doer noted, "Congress has given us an opportunity to take time to get this right, so we can enhance security and grow our economies. Tourism between our countries is a significant industry and one most likely to be affected by the passport requirement. We have the technology to produce a lower-cost alternative, such as a driver's license."

"The travel and tourism industry is a significant economic contributor to the U.S. and to Canada," added Graham. "We believe the options we are proposing address both the economic and security needs of our two countries."

The premiers are on a joint mission to urge the U.S. administration to consider alternatives to a passport requirement. The mission is supported by Quebec Premier Jean Charest. While in Washington, the three premiers have been working closely with Canadian ambassador Michael Wilson and have met with U.S. governors, members of the Senate and House of Representatives, and private sector leaders.

Contact Information

  • Ontario:
    Premier's Media Office
    (416) 314-8975
    Cabinet Communications
    (204) 945-1494
    New Brunswick:
    Director of Communications
    (506) 453-6449