By Lee-Anne Goodman, The Canadian Press - Monday, February 4, 2013 - 0 Comments
WASHINGTON – The dreaded S-word — sequestration — loomed over a Canada-U.S. conference on…
WASHINGTON – The dreaded S-word — sequestration — loomed over a Canada-U.S. conference on Beyond the Border initiatives Monday as an American official acknowledged U.S. budget woes were slowing progress on a host of fronts.
“It is fair to say we are facing some very difficult budget constraints,” Ana Hinojosa, a director at U.S. Customs and Border Protection and a member of the Beyond the Border Initiative, told the meeting.
Sequestration is a massive package of sweeping, automatic spending cuts to an array of U.S. federal departments and agencies set to take effect on March 1.
If Congress fails to come up with a deal on spending cuts in the weeks to come, sequestration will thrust Americans into an age of austerity that threatens to bring to a halt some of the projects envisioned by Beyond the Border.
The Canada-U.S. border agreement, announced with great fanfare by U.S. President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Stephen Harper two years ago, is aimed at easing the flow of goods and travellers over the border by sharing intelligence and harmonizing regulations.
The Canada-U.S. boundary has been plagued by delays, red tape and out-dated regulations for years, especially in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
Maryscott Greenwood of the Canadian American Business Council asked the Beyond the Border panel if the ongoing U.S. fiscal crisis means “there will not be any expansion of pre-clearance at airports in Canada, and that, if anything, we are looking at cuts?”
Hinojosa replied: “We have to be very conscientious about where our resources are … being able to expand to other areas would be very difficult.”
That’s bad news for airports in Canada, in particular Toronto’s island airport. Porter Airlines, which now flies to Washington, Chicago, Boston and New York out of Toronto, has been negotiating for months to bring U.S. customs to the Billy Bishop Toronto City airport.
At the event hosted by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, senior bureaucrats from both countries — all of them working on Beyond the Border or the bilateral Regulatory Co-operation Council — emphasized the progress that has been made in several areas in the first year of the Beyond the Border two-year action plan.
They pointed to the expansion of Nexus, a Canada-U.S. program that allows frequent, pre-screened travellers to breeze through customs at airports on both sides of the border.
The U.S. Homeland Security department and Canada’s Border Services Agency have also begun work on a plan to create security checkpoints at designated areas away from the border to ease congestion and promote efficient passage of visitors and goods.
“North America is back,” exclaimed Patrick Kilbride, the director for western hemisphere affairs at the chamber.
Kevin O’Shea, a Canadian member of the Beyond the Border implementation team, said he wasn’t worried that sequestration would significantly slow down progress.
“I have great faith in the U.S. political system,” said O’Shea, who spent six years at the Canadian embassy in D.C. working on border and security issues.
He added that Canada is playing “a bit of catch up” in terms of investing in the border, following the American lead, and therefore budget cuts in the U.S. shouldn’t pose any serious problems.
“Tremendous progress has been made,” he told the conference. “Our departments and agencies have been working at a tremendous pace to lay the foundations for all of the initiatives.”
But one stakeholder, Birgit Matthiessen of the Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters, said Monday’s roundtable “confirmed my anxiety level in terms of the slow pace and deadlines having been missed.”
Matthiessen called it “dismaying” that officials admitted a push to facilitate cross-border business travel at land crossings — one of the biggest headaches plaguing the border — was behind schedule.
A progress report was due late last year. O’Shea said he was hopeful “that in the coming months the report will be out.”
“It concerns me that there has been a stalemate and that we’re not going to see any action in this coming year,” Matthiessen said, adding that a commitment from the “very highest levels of government” had been made on the issue two years ago.
She added that budget woes shouldn’t be holding up most of the outstanding items on the action plan.
“I assume that some specific issues would require additional funding on the U.S. side. But across the board, generally speaking, the initiatives that are most important require bold policy-making rather than opening up the public purse.”
By Erica Alini - Thursday, January 13, 2011 at 12:20 PM - 0 Comments
More strikes in 2011
As Greece’s parliament approved an austerity budget on Dec. 23, trade union leaders vowed to continue the agitation that has roiled the debt-stricken country in the last year, promising more strikes in 2011. The budget, pushed through by socialist Prime Minister George Papandreou, administers more of the bitter medicine economists say is required for Greece to save itself from financial collapse: a pension freeze, health care spending cuts and new tax hikes.
Approving the new measures was essential for Greece to secure the next disbursement of a $144.5-billion bailout package by the European Union and the International Monetary Fund. But the policies are driving a wedge between the government and the unions, which have traditionally been close to the socialists, and within the ruling party itself. Tensions are so high, in fact, that some cabinet members have reportedly stopped greeting each other. And many question whether the pain will actually produce any future gain, noting that with public debt projected to hit 160 per cent of GDP in 2013 and unemployment expected to rise to 14 per cent in 2011, a Greek default may be unavoidable.
By Jason Kirby - Monday, January 10, 2011 at 9:40 AM - 6 Comments
US vs. UK: Stimulus spending vs. hard-nosed austerity
In late November crowds took to the streets in cities across the United States and Britain. As mobs rampaged and destroyed property, fights broke out and a number of victims were sent to hospital. By the time the ordeal was over, police had been called in to bring the unruly hordes under control, and two stunned nations were left to wonder how it had come to this. Mind you, those who rioted in the United Kingdom were students protesting deep government cuts to education spending. In America they were just Black Friday shoppers trampling each other to get to the discount bin at Toys “R” Us.
Since the Great Recession morphed into the Grudging Recovery last year, the U.S. and U.K. have taken radically different paths with their economic policies. In October, the coalition government of Tory Prime Minister David Cameron waged war on the country’s fiscal deficits with a vow to slash spending by $131 billion and raise taxes over the next four years. Meanwhile, across the pond, the Obama administration shook hands with Republicans last month to launch yet another round of stimulus in the form of temporary tax cuts and help for those out of work that will add US$892 billion to that country’s deficits over the next five years. While the British struggle to tighten their belts, American policy makers are doing everything they can to loosen theirs.
By Andrew Coyne - Monday, June 14, 2010 at 11:02 AM - 69 Comments
ANDREW COYNE: The mystery is how it got started
“Finance ministers of the world’s leading economies have been so spooked by the sovereign debt crisis that they have decided they can no longer wait until economies are growing strongly before they remove fiscal stimulus . . . The communiqué of the meeting made clear the G20 no longer thought expansionary fiscal policy was sustainable or effective in fostering recovery because investors were no longer confident about some countries’ public finances.”
—Financial Times, June 5
So the great Policy Panic is over: born of the financial crisis of 2008, expired in the fiscal crisis of 2010. Let Lord Keynes’s body be returned to its grave at last.
By Jason Kirby - Tuesday, June 1, 2010 at 10:21 AM - 54 Comments
Why it’s coming, and why Canada won’t escape so easily this time
On May 6, shortly after 2:30 p.m., stock markets in the West went bonkers. In the span of 17 minutes, major indices shed nine per cent of their value, erasing $1 trillion in wealth. Then, just like that, prices rebounded and it was over. Dubbed the “flash crash,” regulators are still probing what went wrong. Analysts have voiced their suspicions. A computerized trading glitch was to blame, or someone had a “fat finger” and punched in an errant sell order. It had to be some fluke, though, because nothing warranted a drop in prices like that.
Except two weeks later, markets were back to the gutter level of the flash crash. There may be flaws in the way computers now handle most trades, but it’s also true a great many investors that day believed stocks were dramatically overvalued.
By Charlie Gillis - Sunday, May 16, 2010 at 9:00 AM - 0 Comments
The newly minted PM faces a daunting task: fix the U.K.’s finances
There are no short cuts on the long journey back from fiscal crisis—take it from someone who knows. Paul Martin was a rookie cabinet minister when he assumed the reins of Canada’s Finance Department back in 1994. But as a businessman, he understood a balance sheet, and the politician in him sensed the risk of promising half-measures. “You cannot tell people it’s going to be easy and then think they’re going to accept harsh medicine,” the former prime minister says from his office in Montreal. “And don’t think people are going to stay with you through the tough measures if you don’t hit your targets.”
To many Canadians, Martin’s role in leading the country from the brink of financial ruin is now a fading memory, overshadowed by his anticlimactic turn as prime minister. But in Britain, where five days of fevered negotiation this week produced a minority Conservative government, he is an exemplar to those contemplating the Herculean task that lies in wait: tackling the U.K.’s disastrous finances. “What Paul Martin did has been incredibly influential in Whitehall and academic circles,” says Patrick Dunleavy, a political scientist at the London School of Economics. “It’s seen as a good way to go about budget rebalancing, while limiting the damage that’s done in the process.”