Tim Leeds Havre Daily News email@example.com
People asking the governments of two nations to increase hours of the border crossing north of Havre Tuesday heard from a man who will study the proposed change. Monday they heard federal legislation was proposed to do exactly what the international committee pushing for the change is asking for. Economist Patrick Barkey told people at the meeting his study will make a comparison of what the area could expect in traffic and economic growth in the future if the port stays the same, and what the area could expect if the port is upgraded to a 24-hour commercial status. “It’s really skipping to the end,” he said. The Bureau of Business and Economic Research at the University of Montana has been commissioned by the Wild Horse Border Committee, cochaired by Havre Mayor Bob Rice and former Medicine Hat, Alberta, Mayor Garth Vallely, to conduct the study. It mirrors a study being conducted in Alberta. U. S. Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., proposed legislation in the Senate Monday directing the Department of Homeland Security to maintain the port as a commercial port open 24-hours a day. “What a difference a day makes,” Bear Paw Deve lopment Corp. Executive Director Paul Tuss said at Tuesday’s meeting, held at Bear Paw Development. Tester cited tying the north-central Montana economy to the booming economy in Alberta, largely driven by the oil fields near Medicine Hat and development of the oil sands near Fort McMurray north of Medicine Hat, as a reason for the change, as well as increasing the security at the border by increasing personnel at the crossing and improving the lives of Montanans and Albertans by making it easier to cross. In a telephone interview, Alberta Member of the Legislative Assembly Paul Mitzel, who proposed a bill in the provincial government supporting a 24-hour commercial port at Wild Horse which passed unanimously, applauded Tester. Tester’s bill has been referred to the Senate Finance Committee, which Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont. Chairs. Baucus said he looks forward to moving the bill out of his committee, probably early next year, and pushing for Its passage on the floor of the Senate. “This is exciting. I know that we have been working for quite some time ” Mitzel said. “Sen. Tester and Sen. (Max) Baucus have taken the next step.” Mitzel testified in Helena earlier this year when state Rep. John Musgrove, D-Havre., sponsored a resolution in the Montana Legislature similar to Mitzel’s Albertan resolution. It passed 93-6 in the House and 47-2 in the Senate. “That is probably as close to unanimous as you can get, and I was surprised that ours was unanimous,” Mitzel said. Musgrove said during Tuesday’s meeting the effort will fill a crucial need. “We need a corridor between the far reaches of Alberta to Houston, Texas,” he said. “It’s going to take more than a small committee, and I think we’re moving in the right direction.” Vallely said during the meeting that another meeting has been scheduled for Friday with Member of Parliament Monte Solberg, a federal legislator from Alberta who is the equivalent of Montana’s congressional delegation. That meeting will help finalize the Alberta study, and Tester’s bill will also help at that meeting, he said. “I think the stars are starting to line up,” Vallely said. The Alberta study, earlier expe c t ed expe c t ed to be released in September or October, is expected to be completed soon, al though no results will be released until it is finalized, said Sean Blewett, g e n e r a l m a n a g e r o f C ommu n i t y Fu t u r e s i n Medicine Hat. The schedule is for a draft of the Montana study to be presented in mid-February, with the final presentation expected early in March. The results of the studies will be given to Montana’s congressional delegation and to Solberg to use in support of their efforts to persuade both federal governments to change the status of the port.