Saturday, April 01, 2006

Passports please

Huge fuss going on over Shrub's summit with Fox and Harper, the principal issues being softwood and passports on the Canadian side. Maybe I just don't get it, but I don't see the need for this "secure document" alternative. It is one of those often quoted statistics that 23% of Americans hold a passport (US State Department) and 40% of Canadians (Toronto Star) and many of those are immigrants wishing to visit home but since Canada, Mexico and many Caribbean countries allow entry with a birth cert many people choose to holiday where they don't need a passport.

The answer - make passports cheaper, valid longer and quick to obtain and there's your "secure document" rather than faffing around with some driver's licence on steroids.

In Canada, adult passports only last 5 years, and a lot of countries refuse passports with less than 6 months left - increasing this to 10 years, like Ireland and the United States is essential especially given the increasing processing burden from more applicants. At present, each application is pretty much as if you were applying for the first time, although Passport Canada say this will change. Cost wise, a Canadian one is C$87 whereas an Irish one which lasts twice as long costs C$106 (75 Euro) and a US 10-year costs C$113 (US$97).

Making it harder for Americans to visit will unquestionably hurt Canadian business and tourism, just as the strong Canadian dollar has. Canada must put plenty of money and resources into border crossings to make sure Americans who do visit pass through speedily in the main but keeping checks for weapons trafficking which causes Toronto so many problems.
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