22 March 2006

Niagara County Votes 15-0 Against Border Passes

15-0 vote opposes passport plan for border
LOCKPORT - Niagara County legislators said Tuesday they are against a proposal to require a passport or similar document for Canadian and U.S. citizens entering the United States from Canada.

The Legislature voted, 15-0, against the plan, saying some businesses here could be wiped out if a passport were required for entry to the American side.

If President Bush's Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004 goes forward, it could irreparably damage business and industry here, said Legislator Clyde L. Burmaster, R-Ransomville.

Burmaster said the county has been trying to improve the economy through efforts to attract a ferry service between Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ont., and Western New York. He said that 75 million people have visited the official Web site of Niagara-on-the-Lake and that he would like to bring some of those visitors here.

Burmaster also said that many of the fans who travel from Canada to attend Buffalo Bills and Sabres games and visit the Seneca Niagara Casino might not want to come here if they have to purchase an expensive passport.

The Legislature's resolution states that more than 4 million vehicles crossed the Lewiston-Queenston Bridge in 2005, 3.4 million vehicles crossed the Rainbow Bridge and about 207,000 vehicles crossed the Whirlpool Bridge, for a total of 7.7 million visitors.

The resolution, submitted by Legislators Glenn S. Aronow, R-Lockport, and John D. Ceretto, D-Lewiston, cites a Zogby International study conducted in February. Requiring passports at the Canadian border would cost a total of $2.5 billion in lost business on both sides of the border, according to Zogby.

Legislators, in the resolution, said they do not support the additional requirement of a passport or other document to cross the border but possibly could consider a different card that would be easier to obtain and more affordable.

Citing an article from The Buffalo News earlier this month, legislators said they feared the possible economic impact if passports were required to enter the United States from Canada.

A Zogby poll showed that a third of Americans and Canadians would be less likely to cross the northern border to shop, attend sporting events or go to resorts if they had to buy a passport.

It would cost U.S. businesses about $800 million a year and Canadian businesses, $1.7 billion, according to Zogby.

Aronow said people traveling through Canada to reach Niagara County might not be able to get here and might not even know that there could be a potential problem until they reach the border.

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