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Government Affairs Albany Update

October 26, 2005

Council Testifies at Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative Hearing

On Monday, October 24, 2005, The Business Council testified at a hearing on the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative sponsored by Congresswoman Louise Slaughter and held at the Hauptman-Woodward Medical Research Institute in Buffalo. The Initiative is a proposal to require all persons entering the United States after the end of 2007 to possess a passport or other secure document which can prove identity and citizenship.

A total of about 50 people attended including Senator Schumer, Members of Congress Slaughter, Reynolds and Higgins, the Mayors of Niagara Falls, New York and Ontario plus a dozen other assorted American and Canadian elected and appointed local officials. There was also a small assortment of American and Canadian chamber and tourism association officials. Senator Clinton also phoned in expressing her support for the hearing and making brief remarks about the issue.

Taking in the varied remarks and testimony were Elaine Dezenski, Assistant Secretary of Homeland Security for Border & Trade Policy and Keith Powell, Consul General from the U.S. Embassy in Ottawa.

Of the dozen or so who gave actual testimony, most were elected and appointed officials from both sides of the border. There were four private sector types who spoke; the Buffalo-Niagara Partnership, two tourism types and The Business Council. Points emphasized by the speakers were the economic impact on business and tourism, the uniqueness of the Canada/ U.S. border relationship and the need to improve upon existing forms of currently available and inexpensive ID instead of a passport or other new form of ID. Congresswoman Slaughter specifically thanked The Business Council for coming in from Albany.

By the end of the meeting, it was encouraging to hear Secretary Dezenski say that they are focusing on a reasonable alternative to the passport.

Click here for The Business Council's Press Release on our testimony.