Plan on Traveling to Canada? $97 Please

Many UVM students and Vermonters in general enjoy the occasional trip to Montreal, Quebec.

Concerts, sporting events, Casino gambling, and the general European aura of the city draw thousands every year. Travel has been aided not only by the close proximity, but also with the relative ease one can cross the border, this, as many are already aware, is about to come to an end.

Big Brother has chosen to protect us from the vast horde of Islamic terrorists residing in Canada by requiring Passports at the border as of December 31, 2007. In 2004 The Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act was passed; which set a goal of requiring a passport or other secure document for travel between all countries in the Western Hemisphere by 2008. The rationale seems to be to prevent the scenario where terrorists take a seagoing vessel from Medina to the Hudson Bay, then trek through thousands of miles of tundra and wilderness to cross the border with high school quality fake IDs, from there they would presumably conspire to blow up a Walmart in Tallahassee.

In all seriousness though, there is no debate that terror is a very real danger, there are people out there, who, for a number of reasons are determined to attack the U.S and anyone or thing they determine to be linked with us. Passports however, are not going to stop them.

Both the Mexican and Canadian borders have proven to be extremely porous. Drug dealers and illegal immigrants have no trouble crossing them every day. The impact on the tourism industry cannot be overstated either, according to the Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs “Canadian visits generated $10.9 billion for the U.S national economy in 2003 alone.”

The Canadian Tourism Commission conducted a study which predicted a loss of $667 million if passports were required at the border, likewise the Canadians would lose $1.43 billion.

The Foreign Affairs web site also points out that congestion along the border could have serious ramifications on industry; keep in mind Canada is our largest trading partner.

It seems to me that if terrorists were able to infiltrate Canada, then it is conceivable they could have done the same in the U.S, skipping the check point at the border all together. Also keep in mind, while a passport has more security features than a driver’s license, it is still a document, and documents can be forged.

We have to decide which is more important, the additional trade an open border brings, or a minute increase in security. This step, like virtually all others, fails to make us much safer; it only creates and enhances the illusion of safety. Which is more useful an illusion, or $667 million?

It is unfortunate that terrorism has been added to the list of things that might kill you, but it has. It seems the best thing to do would be to accept this fact, hope our next president is able to correct policies and reduce terror at its root, and go on with our lives. Slowing down trade and tourism with Canada, the country we share the most in common with, is not the answer.

All is not forfeit though, you can still drive up to Canada and buy your high octane beer, it will just cost you an additional $97. That’s how much the 80-85% of Americans without passports will have to pay to get them. This certainly is not an insurmountable sum, but it is definitely a disincentive if one does not plan to leave the country often

The Terrorism Prevention Act appears to be a giant step backward. Further trade and border liberalization, especially with Canada, is, at least in my opinion the best course of action. Regrettably the government has decided that this is not the path we will take; instead the once trivial act of crossing the border will become more tedious and expensive. The days when we though of Canada like just another state will soon be over.