Tim Leeds Havre Daily News email@example.com
Local representatives of an international group pushing to upgrade the border port into Canada north of Havre to a 24-hour commercial port were encouraged by their visit last week with representatives of Canada’s federal government. “It was a fantastic trip, the highlight of my career,” Havre Mayor Bob Rice, co-chair of the Wild Horse Border Committee, said Tuesday. Rice and Bear Paw Development Executive Director Paul Tuss traveled to Ottawa, Ontario, the capital of Canada, with members of the committee from Alberta including former Medicine Hat Mayor Garth Vallely, who co-chairs the committee with Rice, and Harold Wilson, executive director of The Economic Development Alliance of Southeast Alberta, based in Medicine Hat. The two said the group flew out of Calgary en route to Ottawa Tuesday, then flew back Thursday. “It ended up being two full days of meetings,” Rice said. The two agreed that the officials they met, including the caucus of the Alberta federal representatives and officials from different departments of the Canadian government, were supportive of the upgrade. The next step, they said, is to Wait for Monte Solberg, an Albertan member of Parliament, to push for Canadian legislation to upgrade the port, which would mirror legislation already proposed by Montana’s Sen. Jon Tester in the U.S. Senate. “I was told yesterday to be patient and let Monte Solberg do his thing,” Rice said. While the decision was made due to the ability of bridges to hold the load after it crossed the border rather than the status of the ports, a gigantic load finally passed through Havre early Monday morning after wating in town some three weeks. The 700,000 pound power plant, a turbine skid scheduled for delivery to Edmonton, Alberta, is now near the Sweetgrass-Coutts port, waiting for some new equipment to be swapped out on the 251-foot long truck hauling the turbine before it crosses the border. The trip was delayed while the Candadian government decided whether to use the Sweetgrass or the Wild Horse port. The Wild Horse committee has been pushing to upgrade the port. It is now open only 8 a. m. to 9 p.m. in the summer and 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. in the winter, with commercial vehicles needing a special permit to use the port. Much of the commercial traffic in the booming economy of Alberta now uses the Port of Sweetgrass-Coutts, north of Shelby and the only commercial 24-hour port between Montana and Alberta, to cross the border. Vallely said in a telephone interview Tuesday that all members of the delegation were happy with the results of the meeting. “We went away very encouraged. Now we just have to wait and see,” he said. “We were all higher than kites when we got on the airplane.” He added that having the Havreites there was a definite benefit. “It’s good the mayor and Paul were there. There were some questions about what’s going on on your side of the border.” Rice said having two Havre viewpoints helped. “I think it was important both of us were there,” he said. A study done by the Bureau of Business and Economic Research at the University of Montana, mirrored by a study just released in Alberta, says that a conservative estimate of the impacts of upgrading the Port of Wild Horse is that commercial traffic would quadruple if the port is upgraded, and is likely to create $12.6 million in new after-tax income, create $10.8 million in new wages and create as much as 265 new jobs and a 529-person population increase in Blaine, Chouteau, Hill, Liberty and Phillips counties. The bill introduced by Tester directs the U.S Department of Homeland Security to designate Wild Horse a commercial port and to operate it 24-hours-a-day. The bill is now in the Senate Finance Committee, which is chaired by Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont. Tuss, Rice and Vallely all said that Solberg has done an excellent job keeping the Canadian federal officials informed about the issue, which the Wild Horse Committee says will benefit both countries by increasing traffic and economic activity between Alberta, which has the fastest growing economy in Canada, and the United States. Much of the activity in Alberta is spurred by tapping some of the largest oil reserves in the world, including the massively rich oil sands in northeastern Alberta.