It may be frigidly cold outside in these long days of winter, but the issue of reliable ferry access to Campobello Island is hotter than ever, and rightly so.
The 800 plus island residents of Campobello face daily transportation hurdles. Their only highway is connected by a bridge to Lubec, Maine. That means residents must cross through two border crossings to get back into mainland Canada, after a lengthy drive through the United States, and do the same again when returning home. In the summer months, there is an independent seasonal ferry service but operational issues this past summer have brought the island’s transportation issues to a head.
It is unacceptable that Canadians should have to cross an international border in order to get to mainland Canada. In a worst-case scenario such as what occurred on 9/11, should the United States border be closed in the case of an emergency, the residents of Campobello would be cut off from the rest of New Brunswick and Canada. This is unthinkable.
As the Member of Parliament for New Brunswick Southwest, including Campobello, I have met with concerned citizen groups and continue to work with them and apply political pressure where and when required.
Let’s be real. The ferry issue is complicated. It largely falls under provincial jurisdiction and efforts there must be strengthened. We must work as a team within all levels of government, regardless of party affiliation, to get results for this small New Brunswick community that is struggling with transportation.
I remain optimistic, however. After recently pushing for a federally-funded study of Campobello’s ferry situation, a consultant was hired, and a report is expected very soon. Progress is being made.
While I remain focused on ensuring and providing safe, reliable, year-round transportation to the residents of Campobello Island, some are trying to confuse and cloud the issue using fear tactics with regard to Bill C-21. Bill C-21 is an Act to Amend the Customs Act. It was legislation that was originally brought forward under the previous Conservative Government and then again by the Liberal Government to help strengthen Canada’s borders and protect Canadians. Safer border crossings are something we should all stand up for and support.
Bill C-21 will allow Canadian Border Services to better track who and what comes in and out of our country. These changes will provide our border agents with the ability to better block individuals traveling to join a terrorist organization, drug trafficking, illegal immigration and human trafficking, while improving the speed and access of Amber Alerts. It’s a positive step forward for enhancing security at our borders.
I have and continue to do my due diligence. I have spoken with Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale and with Bill Blair, Minister of Border Security and Organized Crime Reduction. I have listened to the concerns of my constituents and taken their concerns to them.
The key issue facing Campobello Island isn’t Bill C-21. The issue is that Campobello Island is currently only accessible by travelling through the United States. Border issues and restrictions are nothing new for Campobello residents or anyone else for that matter. Contractors and businesses are already required to fill out forms to do work on the island. Some individuals with minor youthful offences are permanently unable to cross the border leaving them unable to leave Campobello.
I have said this before and I’m saying it again: Campobello Island must be accessible without having to leave Canada. One solution that I fully support is a year-round ferry.
A year-round ferry to Campobello would not only alleviate any concerns from Campobello residents with relation to Bill C-21, it would ensure continual access to Canada without reliance on the United States.
While Bill C-21 has highlighted the transportation hurdles faced by Campobello residents, it is not the cause of these issues, but rather a symptom. Residents of Campobello will continue to experience transportation challenges until a solution is found.
Keep in mind, I’m the MP with first-hand experience who must cross through four border crossings to visit my constituents. Like the residents of Campobello Island, I too do not enjoy the added travel and crossing of an international border to reach my own country. But let’s not confuse and complicate the two issues. Bill C-21 is a security measure and I don’t think anyone could argue against safer borders for a safer country.
This is a clear-cut transportation issue for the residents of Campobello. With insightful, honest, respectful dialogue and co-operation from all sides, we can take action together to ease the transportation burdens of this vital New Brunswick community. Let’s not muddy the waters with political rhetoric. Instead, let’s work together to get Campobello Island residents across the water, year-round.
Karen Ludwig MP, New Brunswick Southwest
Below is a response I received from Minister Goodale, which was also sent to the media: (Published in the Telegraph Journal – January 16, 2019)
Bill C-21 as enacted by the Parliament of Canada
The Canada/US border plays a special role in the everyday lives of the people of Campobello Island. The Government of Canada is committed to ensuring smooth and efficient operations that facilitate the legitimate movement of people and goods while maintaining proper safety and security.
Concerns have been expressed about the impact of new federal border legislation (Bill C-21) which received Royal Assent in December. I appreciate the opportunity to correct some unfortunate misinformation that has been circulating about this new law.
C-21 fills a significant security loophole by providing the legal authority for the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) to collect basic exit information on all people who are leaving our country – who, when and where. The claim that C-21 will mean additional paperwork for those crossing the land border into the United States is completely false. The necessary details (i.e., nothing more than the information on Page 2 of your passport) will be collected by US border officials in the normal manner, and they will simply provide that information to their Canadian counterparts. The traveller’s experience will be entirely unchanged.
For goods being sent out of Canada, C-21 responds to the Auditor General’s call for better means to interdict smuggling. The goods of concerns would be items like stolen vehicles and materials that violate Canada’s anti-nuclear proliferation obligations. To deal with these problems – which are not serious concerns with respect to Campobello Island shipments — C-21 gives CBSA officers the discretion to require reporting and to conduct examinations, as and where necessary.
The relevant Regulations are currently being drafted. I am confident they will not impinge on Campobello residents in any negative manner. But in any event, before any Regulations take effect, the normal drafting process provides an opportunity for the general public to be informed and to comment if any concerns need to be addressed.
CBSA is always ready to provide further information, including briefings for elected officials or the media, as required.
Sincerely, Ralph Goodale, MP (Regina-Wascana) Minister of Public Safety & Emergency Preparedness
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