Easy border crossings to U.S. ended by terrorist attacks
By JANE ARMSTRONG, The Globe and Mail
With a report from Richard Mackie in Toronto
Saturday, September 15, 2001
VANCOUVER -- In simpler times, before Sept. 11, Vancouver venture capitalist Brent Holliday drove to Seattle five or six times a month. There was never a wait at the U.S. border. He didn't even come to a full stop.
Mr. Holliday slowed his car, pointed to the sticker on his windshield and U.S. officials waved him through. Like thousands of other Canadians, he had enrolled in a program called Pace, which allowed frequent travellers to whisk across the border.
Mr. Holliday had a meeting on Tuesday in Seattle, but after the terrorist attacks, U.S. border officers went on high alert and the express lineups were closed indefinitely. He never made it to the meeting.
"Now I'm just like everybody else and I have to line up and that is an absolute deterrent for me to wait 2˝ hours in a line to Seattle," he said. "My world has changed. I just find it so incredibly inconvenient in a fast-moving world to stand there doing nothing."
Like thousands of other Canadians who do business in the United States, Mr. Holliday found out first hand this week what tightly-controlled border crossings can mean.
Mr. Holliday isn't alone. The restricted border has created difficulties across the country.
It has also put a dent in Canadian operations which relied on U.S. customers. In Windsor, casino business is down, said Ken Lewenza, head of Canadian Auto Workers union Local 444, which represents 5,000 casino employees. Mr. Lewenza said approximately 90 per cent of the 30,000 gamblers who come to the casino on the weekends are American. If the downturn continues, management has warned that there may be layoffs, he said.
Since Tuesday morning, all U.S. entry points -- including airports and seaports -- have been on high alert.
That slowed transportation to a crawl. In Ontario, commercial vehicles were lined up several kilometres deep at some crossings. Some vehicles waited 12 hours to pass through U.S. customs.
Nerves have become so frayed that police have delivered water, coffee and snacks to drivers waiting in their trucks. Portable toilets have been placed along highways lined with trucks.
More than $1-billion is exchanged between Canada and the United States every day and most moves in trucks.
"The potential losses are huge," said Larry Hahn, director of regulatory affairs for Livingstone International Inc., Canada's largest broker and trade-services firm.
Meanwhile, in Vancouver, Mr. Holliday said he hopes the border restrictions are temporary. But he suspects the days of unrestricted travel between Canada and the United States are over.
Entrepreneurs will adjust, he predicted, but travel delays will become a cost of doing business.