Tim Leeds Havre Daily News firstname.lastname@example.org
The keynote speaker at the 99th Annual Meeting of the Havre Area Chamber of Commerce said increasing the connections between Montana and Alberta would benefit both areas and both the United States and Canada. “This initiative, I certainly feel, would benefit trade,” said Leonard Mitzel, member of the Legislative Assembly in Alberta. Mitzel, a member of the Wild Horse Border Committee, has been pushing for opening the port of Wild Horse north of Havre as a 24-hour commercial port of entry between the United States and Canada. In 2006, he proposed legislation in the Alberta Assembly urging the Canadian government to change the port’s status, which passed unanimously. In 2007, commi t tee member John Musgrove, a Montana representative from Havre, sponsored a similar bill in the Legislature. It passed nearly unanimously in both the House and Senate. The only 24-hour port between Alberta, which has one of the fastest-growing economies in Canada, and the United States is the port of Sweetgrass-Coutts north of Shelby. Michael Reeves of Lubbock, Texas, president of the Ports-To-Plains Trade Corridor, said increasing the hours and status of the port it is now open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. in the winter and 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. in the summer and is open to commercial traffic by permit only would also increase traffic and trade on that corridor. Reeves said his group, which primarily focuses on a trade corridor from the harbor ports in Texas to Denver, has realized that the trade includes traffic farther north into Alberta. He said a special advantage of increasing that trade is tapping the booming growth of the oil fields in Alberta, listed as the secondlargest oil reserves in the world. That could allow the United States to reduce its dependence on oil from the Middle East, Reeves said. “Who would you rather buy your oil from?” he asked. The trade corridor could also benefit trade and power transmission related to alternative energy like wind farms and biodiesel plants, Reeves said. Reeves said his group will lobby members of Congress from states the corridor Passes through including Texas, Oklahoma and Colorado this year to support a bill sponsored by Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mo n t . , d i r e c t i n g t h e Depar tment of Homeland Security to administer Wild Horse as a 24-hour commercial port. Mitzel said opening Wild Horse as a 24-hour commercial port would complete two legs of a trade ladder from the United States into Alberta, and could also better-connect a route from the seaport of Pr i n c e Ru p e r t , Br i t i s h Columbia, the end of the shortest sealane from Asia to North America. Mitzel said the Canamex Trade Corridor runs from Mexico into Texas and through Sweetgrass-Coutts into Alberta. The Ports to Plains corridor would run from Texas through Denver and into Alberta at Wild Horse, with both corridors connecting in Alberta. Those corridors would provide the legs of a trade ladder, with interstate highways providing transportation “rungs” connecting the two routes. “Ports and Plains and Canamex are a coalition, as far as I’m concerned,” Mitzel said. “ At present, Alberta is a one-legged economic giant balancing on Coutts alone.” Mitzel said the amount of trade is already huge. Alberta ships by truck goods worth billions of dollars into the United States, and imports billions more by truck. If Coutts were to shut down due to security or safety factors, that flow would stop, he said. Opening Wild Horse would also streamline the flow of goods, he added, taking three hours each way off for some shippers. The goods coming into Alberta much, but not all, going to the oil fields come from all over, Mitzel added. Parts and supplies are shipped from Pennsylvania, the central United States, ports in Texas and from Mexico and south as well as from other ports. Mitzel said after the luncheon that proposals in the Canadian government are still in the initial stages, much as Tester’s bill is. “We’re pushing very hard to have it in next year’s budget,” Mitzel said.