Tim Leeds Havre Daily News firstname.lastname@example.org
Travelers crossing the U.S.-Canadian Border north of Havre are a seeing a lopsided operation that started Sunday, with U.S. Customs and Border Protection implementing its earlier start date for summer hours while the Canadian side is continuing on its winter schedule. “We’re not going to expand our seasonal hours at this time,” Lisa White, spokesperson for Canada’s Border Service Agency said this morning. “An increase in our seasonal time would require a significant investment, and the traffic at this time does not justifiy that investment.” U. S. Customs and Border Protection announced last fall that it would expand the time for its summer hours when the port is open from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. to begin March 1 and run through Oct. 31. Previously, the summer hours ran from May 15 to Sept. 30. The winter hours for the port, which is a permit-only port with limited commercial traffic, are from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. An international committee co-chaired by Havre Mayor Bob Rice and former Medicine Hat, Alberta, Mayor Garth Vallely has been pushing to upgrade Wild Horse to a commercial port open 24-hours-a-day. The committee says, and studies support, that upgrading the port will allow increased traffic between the booming economy in Alberta and the United States. That would help the economies of both countries, including the economy of north-central Montana, the committee says. The Port of Sweetgrass north of Shelby is now the only 24-hour commercial port between Montana and Alberta. Montana’s U.S. Sen. Jon Tester has sponsored a bill in the Senate to upgrade the port. Friday he applauded the extended hours on the U.S. side of Wild Horse. “The bo t tom l ine i s today’ s announcement is good for Montana,” said Tester. “In these tough economic times, encouraging trade with Canada to boost local economic activity just makes common sense.” Paul Tuss, executive director of Bear Paw Development, also praised the change and the work done by Tester. “This is great news for Havre and northern Montana because it’s good for businesses and good for our economy,” Tuss said. “Senator Tester understands how important it is to expand opportunities along the Northern Border. We appreciate his work in increasing hours at the Port of Wild Horse.” LaVar Payne, member of Canada’s Parliament from Medicine Hat, sent a letter to Canada’s Minister of Pulic Safety Peter Van Loan last month asking that Canada mirror the U.S. hours of operation at Wild Horse. “I am fully aware of the traffic counts’ and know that beaurocrats always use these counts as a reason not to do anything,” Payne wrote in his letter, “however it does not seem logical to me to have the Border open for Candadians to enter the U.S., yet not allow them to return to Canada through the same P.O.E. after certain hours, or to allow U.S. citizens to enter Canada and not be at liberty to return for the same reasons. To say the least, it is puzzling why our countries respective Border Services do not utilize the same operating hours.” In his letter, Payne also urges Van Loan to create the infrastructure necessary to upgrade Wild Horse to a 24-hour port. White said that Canada’s Border Services Agency will continue to monitor the traffic rates and if the numbers increase signficantly it will re-eveluate the situation. “We’re committed to having efficient and effective border operations,” she said.